THE WORLD'S WONDERLAND
JOSEPH T. PARFIT, M.A.
CANON OF ST GEORGE'S, JERUSALEM
AUTHOR OF "TWENTY YEARS IN BAGHDAD AND SYRIA,"
"AMONG THE DRUZES OF LEBANON AND BASHAN," ETC.
S. W. PARTRIDGE & CO., LTD.
GROSVENOR GARDENS, VICTORIA
Immediately after the outbreak of war I ventured
to draw attention, by means of lectures, articles,
and pamphlets, to the importance of Mesopotamia
and the significance of Germany's Baghdad Railway
schemes. The following pages contain the sub-
stance of my lectures, with some additional informa-
tion more recently available. The different aspects
of the country, its relation to current events and
present-day problems, are here presented in language
and style simple enough, I hope, to convey to
the rising generation the impression that Meso-
potamia must not be overlooked, since its settle-
ment and development within the next fifty years
will influence the whole world's future.
The American Continent will probably be affected
as much as the Eastern hemisphere when the
bulk of Europe's food supplies, cotton, and oil
reach the Mediterranean by the new railways'
waterways, and pipe lines from Mesopotamia and
the East. The most important world-problems
as well as the most fascinating developments of
human existence will be associated for a century
and more with the reconstruction of the Near East.
This is where the ideals of the League of Nations
6 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
will be tested and put into practical operation ;
it is where Western civilisation will be compelled
to come to an understanding with the Mohammedan
world. Here also, we shall observe the beginnings
of a new era for the Jewish race, the Arab race,
and the liberated Eastern Churches, while the most
important outlets for Russia, Armenia, and the
Caucasian Republics will be through the Black Sea
and the Dardanelles. A satisfactory settlement of
Mesopotamia will affect Constantinople, and will be
of the greatest possible service towards the solution
of so many other vital Near Eastern problems.
The world to-day is very different from what
it was a century ago, And American statesmen
will assuredly find it impossible to stand aloof
and watch, as if from another planet, the greatest
changes that have ever affected the fortunes of
mankind. Active co-operation in the resettle-
ment of the Ottoman Dominions would probably be
one of the best ways in which America could serve
the interests of humanity at such a time as this.
The immense developments foreshadowed in the
following pages will undoubtedly be delayed if
America refuses to respond to the cries of Armenia
and the pleas of her overburdened Allies ; but
American citizens will in due time as certainly
rue the day when their statesmen refused a mandate
for Asia Minor and declined to guard the golden
gates of the world's wonderland.
British statesmen have considered the im-
portant question as to how much of Mesopotamia
could be safely evacuated by our military and
civil administrators. Some urged our retirement
to the confines of the Basra Vilayet, while the
Prime Minister argued for the necessity of extend-
ing our aid to the limits of the Mosul boundaries.
General E. G. Barrow, in a letter to the Times ;
wisely pointed out that a sincere attempt was made
in 1 91 5 to restrict our operations to the Basra
Vilayet, but the position was untenable, and only
the timely arrival of a second division of troops
prevented our losing both Basra and the oil-fields
at the battles of Shaiba. I believe we should need
as many troops to hold the Basra Vilayet as would
suffice to guard the more natural frontiers of the
whole of Mesopotamia. If we allowed the Turks
to return to Baghdad and Mosul, the Arabs would
justly plead that we had betrayed our friends,
who were promised emancipation from the Turk
in return for co-operation with the Allies. Many
prominent Arabs in Mesopotamia told me, before
the war, that our apparent affection for the un-
speakable Turk was to them incomprehensible.
It is practically certain that the Turks could never
keep order in the Mosul Vilayet, for Constantinople
would be obliged to connive at the predatory habits
of the Kurds as surely as it has permitted the
ravages of the rebels in Cilicia. No Arab adminis-
tration is possible at present without substantial
assistance from some European Power; and, more-
over, a prime necessity for Mesopotamia is the
opening up of secure communications with the
8 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
Mediterranean Sea, which are only feasible from
the vilayets of Baghdad and Mosul. It would
also be difficult for a Mandatory Power to make
the country self-supporting without a large capital
outlay, and consequently adequate control of the
remunerative mineral and agricultural resources
available in the northern parts of Mesopotamia.
There would be no advantage to the inhabitants
of Mesopotamia, and the whole of Europe would
suffer from our evacuation of the Baghdad and
There is apparently no doubt whatsoever that
the British administrators are fully determined
to place the government of the country in the
hands of the Arabs, and that their supervision will
be strictly limited to the spirit and letter of all
that is meant by a mandate, which is so clearly
enunciated in the principles of the League of
To accuse the British Authorities of unrestrained
Imperialism and selfish land -grabbing is a most
mischievous misrepresentation of the unique services
rendered to civilisation by the British race. We
have always borne the heaviest share of those
burdens which civilised nations cannot afford to
shun, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia will be
the first to benefit from the new responsibilities
which the British are bound to assume on behalf
of the civilised world.
It is hardly necessary to add that the Meso-
potamia to which I refer in these pages is not
" the land between the two rivers," as the name
implies, but the whole " land of Irak," comprising
the former Turkish vilayets of Mosul, Baghdad,
I have added a list of books and periodicals
to which I am indebted for some of my information,
and I offer my sincere apologies for the omissions
and imperfections of so inadequate a treatment
of this fascinating and important subject.
A History of Babylon. By Dr King.
, Ancient History from the Monuments. S.P.C.K.
ci Arabia, the Cradle of Islam. By Dr S. M. Zwemer.
By-paths of Bible Knowledge. R.T.S.
Explorations in Bible Lands during the Nineteenth
Century. By Prof. H. V. Hilprecht.
History of the Christian Church. By Canon J. C.
History of the Church Missionary Society. By Dr
Islam under the Caliphs of Baghdad. By R. D. Osborne.
Nineveh and its Remains. By A. H. Layard.
The Excavations at Babylon. By Robert Koldewey.
The Faith of Islam. By Rev. Edward Sell.
The German Road to the East. By Evans Lewin.
The Nearer East. D. G. Hogarth.
The Nestorian Monument in China. By Prof. P. Y.
*NjThe Secrets of the Bosphorus. By Ambassador
The Story of Extinct Civilisations. By R. E. Anderson.
The C.M.S. Review.
The East and the West.
The Geographical Journal, July 1917.
The Moslem World.
The Near East.
The Times " History of the War."
1. THE VALUE OF MESOPOTAMIA . . . . 17
2. THE CAUSES OF THE WAR . . . -31
3. THE STORY OF THE BAGHDAD RAILWAY . -51
4. THE PERSIAN GULF 70
5. THE BASRA BAR 94
6. THE BATTLE OF SHAIBA 98
7. THE HEROIC DEFENCE OF KUT . . . I07
8. THE ANCIENT MONUMENTS OF MESOPOTAMIA . I30
9. THE SACRED SHRINES AND RELIGIOUS SECTS . 152
10. THE HIGHLANDS OF KURDISTAN . . . l68
11. CHRISTIAN MISSIONS IN MESOPOTAMIA . . 188
12. MESOPOTAMIA AND MECCA .... I97
13. MESOPOTAMIA UNDER THE TURKS . . . 2l6
14. THE LAND OF FLOODS 229
15. THE TRANSFORMATION OF MESOPOTAMIA . . 237
INDEX . . . . . . . 252
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
British Residency and Consulate-General, Baghdad
Disinfection of Mail-bags .
Creek in Basra : " The Venice of the East
Harbour and Town of Muscat
Koweit, from Sheikh's House
The Opening of New Bridge at Baghdad
Arch of Chosroes at Ctesiphon
View of Baghdad from Infantry Barracks
Primitive Irrigation " Cherad " at Kut 'I Amara
Courtyard of Native House in Kut '1 Amara
Watching Arrival of British Steamer, Kut T Amara
River Steamboat " Julnar "
Birs Nimrood, near Babylon
Town of Kefil and Tomb of Ezekiel
A Canyon in Kurdistan
Mountains of Jilu in Kurdistan .
Mardin, with Ruined Turkish Citadel
New Year's Day in Kerbela
Old Turkish Gun on Ramparts of Old Basra
One of the Locks of Hindiah Barrage
Full View of Hindiah Barrage
Anglo-Persian Oil Company's Refinery at Abadan
Outline Map of the Eastern Hemisphere, showing
Overland Routes through Aleppo
Map of Mesopotamia and the Near East
Sketch Map of the Battle of Shaiba .
THE EASTERN HEMISPHERE
OVERLAND ROUTES THROUGH ALEPPO
[See page 22.
POPULATION OF MESOPOTAMIA
The revised figures of a recently completed census
of Mesopotamia show the total population of the
country to be 2,849,282.
The following are the detailed figures :
... I ... 80,970
397 : 9! 104,036;
127 j ... 107,798
5,000 | 200 204,500
20 | 51 190,000]
27 j 28] 173,000
... | 250,000:
7 5, 42 1
2,221 | 1,549 165,600
300 ! 5,000
30 | 2,440
50.670 | 30,180
600 1 ...
22, 1 8c
The World's Wonderland
THE VALUE OF MESOPOTAMIA
Mesopotamia is destined to occupy the attention
of various classes of people in the British Empire
for many years to come, not only because of the
administrative responsibilities that have fallen upon
us, but chiefly because of the unique part this
country is likely to play in the reconstruction of
both Europe and Asia.
Mesopotamia will always be associated with some
of the darkest days, the saddest memories, and the
greatest sacrifices of the War. The rapid advance
to Basra filled us with hope, the muddles revealed
by the Mesopotamian Commission covered us with
shame, the surrender of Kut brought us to the verge
of despair ; the deportation of the Armenians to
Mesopotamia was one of the greatest horrors of
human history ; the capture of Baghdad was one of
those brilliant achievements which turned the tide
18 MARVEL:I.OBS MESOPOTAMIA
of the great conflict and shattered the most cherished
ambitions of our foes. The subsequent develop-
ment of Mesopotamia under a British military
administration is acknowledged to be a master-
piece of efficient organisation, and many eminent
men are now giving their best attention to the
prospects and problems of a country which some
pronounce to be a "white elephant," and. others
believe will become a most prosperous adjunct of
the British Empire.
The value of Mesopotamia cannot be justly esti-
mated solely from its mineral and other material
resources, from the nature of its soil or the number
and character of its present inhabitants. It is
necessary to survey these in conjunction with other
more important interests and advantages. The few
critics who speak disparagingly of Mesopotamia
have overlooked its most valuable assets, and their
criticism, which is chiefly concentrated upon its
agricultural prospects, has added nothing to what is
already known. The difficulties of developing this
neglected country have been well considered by
many distinguished experts. In spite of all that
can be urged to the contrary, they still claim
enormous possibilities for its mineral and agri-
History supports the contention of those who
deny that the irrigated lands became " salted " and
were consequently made desolate and useless
thousands of years ago. It is a well-known fact
that Baghdad under the Khalifs was one of the
THE VALUE OF MESOPOTAMIA 19
finest cities of the world, in spite of its " salted"
suburbs, and as recently as the sixth century a.d.
there were ten millions of people living upon the
produce of a country where nine-tenths of this
"salted soil" was then under cultivation.
Experiments also have been made by British
agricultural experts upon over a million acres of
land, with results that prove, beyond the shadow
of a doubt, the certainty of remunerative returns
from the grain-producing areas of Irak. In the
first experiment the yield of 450,000 tons of grain
was greatly in excess of what was anticipated, when
the estimate given was " 25,000 tons of wheat and
100,000 tons of barley, in addition to fair crops of
Another well-known fact is that the greater part
of Lower Mesopotamia has not been irrigated for
centuries, and it is probable that the " salted " con-
dition of some of its plains is chiefly due to the
incessant floods and the neglect of regulated irriga-
tion, which should now, under scientific manage-
ment, gradually restore fertility to these desolated
It should also be remembered that only in the
southern portion of Mesopotamia, the ancient land
of Shinar, is irrigation required, where also more
barley than wheat is grown ; but north of a line from
Hit to the Tigris there are extensive areas of good
arable land, more suitable for wheat or cotton, where
the rainfall is generally sufficient to bring the crops
20 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
Experimental cotton gardens were laid out a few
miles below Baghdad. Seeds were imported from
different parts of the world ; most of the tilling was
done by women ; a six inch high lift pump, driven by
an oil engine, was fixed to the bank, and the water
for the cotton fields was raised by earth channels.
The type of cotton seed which seemed to thrive
best was the " Middling American Upland," for
which there is generally an immense demand. The
yield was over 2000 lbs. of seed cotton to the acre,
which is a much higher yield than that in India or
Egypt. Four varieties of American seed were found
to give the best results, and the specimens produced
were described as " fairly long in staple, of good
colour, and of high ginning percentage." The ex-
periments fully proved that in large portions of
Mesopotamia cotton can be grown of a longer staple
and perhaps in greater quantities than anywhere
else in the world. I have seen the cotton fields of
India, Egypt, and Asia Minor ; but the fields that
impressed me most were those I saw fifteen years
ago in the neighbourhood of Mosul, where scientific
experiments have not yet been made. It seems
to be the almost unanimous opinion of our best
agricultural experts that Mesopotamia could easily
become one of the greatest granaries and one
of the finest cotton-producing countries in the
Even from an agricultural point of view, the value
of Mesopotamia will not depend entirely upon its
grain or cotton productivity. There is no other
THE VALUE OF MESOPOTAMIA 21
country that can compete with its date groves, and
its orange gardens could be indefinitely extended.
Model farms and vegetable gardens have been
organised with most profitable results, while vast
quantities of wool and liquorice were annually
exported from Mesopotamia before the war.
Though the present population is exceedingly
small, yet the evidences are abundant to justify the
expectation that, under a decent government, there
will be a steady increase fully commensurate with
the needs of the country as it gradually develops.
In less than three years the population of Basra,
for example, increased nearly threefold : thousands
of Arabs, who fled from Turkish oppression, having
returned from India and elsewhere. All the other
towns in Mesopotamia show signs of a substantial
increase in numbers. Thousands of Indians were
permanently domiciled in Kerbela, Kasmain, and
Baghdad before the war ; the pilgrims from Persia
have enormously increased in numbers, and the
sacred shrines will no doubt continue to attract
many pilgrims and permanent settlers when the
government has banished brigandage and blackmail
from all the pilgrim roads. Some of the finest
workers in Baghdad are the Christian Chaldeans
who come from the villages in the north. If there
is work to be done and decent pay to be had, the
prolific Kurds will give up their predatory habits ;
for, in the absence of the patronage hitherto accorded
them by the Turkish regime, they will be forced to
provide sustenance for their large families by more
22 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
legitimate means. The enormous emigration of the
Christian population which took place under the
stress of persecution and oppression will also cease
when security of life and adequate employment can
be found in Mesopotamia. There is not the slightest
cause for anticipating that the development of the
country will be retarded on account of the sparse-
ness of the population. Some of the same circum-
stances that will henceforth give a new value to
Mesopotamia will also help to provide it with the
This country will have a strategic value for many
years to come, and must be occupied by a great
civilised power while the world is passing through
one of the most critical transitions of its history.
The Berlin-Baghdad Railway was no fanciful enter-
prise ; it threatened the existence of the British
Empire, and we narrowly escaped annihilation by
a timely recognition of the strategic importance of
The most obvious reason for placing the highest
possible value upon Mesopotamia is its central
geographical position in view of the development
of overland traffic and the needs of aerial naviga-
tion. Here are the natural junctions for some of
the greatest and busiest of the world's future high-
ways. Multitudes of travellers will assuredly pass
this way when journeying from almost any part of
Europe to any part of Asia and Australasia. It
is highly probable that the largest railway centres
and the most important aerodromes will, within
THE VALUE OF MESOPOTAMIA 23
a quarter of a century, be found in Mesopotamia,
and then its value will be obvious to all.
The regeneration of Persia is one of the most ?
hopeful results of the war, and if the only question
to be considered was the immediate material ad-
vantages to be derived from an Eastern country by
the British race, it might be possible to prove that
Persia is of more value to us for the moment than
Mesopotamia. There would be little hope of Persia,
however, if Kurdistan remained unsubdued, and
little prospect of roads or railways to the Medi-
terranean without some European control at
There is still another reason for assigning a high
value to Mesopotamia, and that is its influential
relationship to the Mohammedan world. This may
prove to be of more vital importance to civilisation
than all its other values, but it is a matter of special
concern to the British Empire, in which there are
more Moslems than Christians.
I have endeavoured elsewhere to trace the rela-
tionship of Mesopotamia to Mecca, but here I wish
to draw attention to the influence of Islam upon
our Western civilisation, illustrated by what all my
readers could not fail to notice.
The Paris Conference was warned that the
Turkish Empire must be dealt with quite differently
from the other three enemy Powers, that all its
decisions must in this case be affected by a religious
influence, viz. the attitude of Islam. No such
consideration was claimed for Austria; no one
24 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
suggested that its dismemberment might be grievous
to the Pope or to the millions of Catholic Christians
in Italy and Spain ; yet, in spite of the wishes of
the \ast majority of the Sultan's subjects, we were
informed that the Turkish Empire must not be
tampered with, because of the religious sentiments
of multitudes who never belonged to the Ottoman
dominions. The Paris Conference was called
upon to consider such important questions as the
safety of Europe, the vindication of justice, the
punishment of Turkey for its unspeakable crimes,
and the protection of waterways and railway
routes that are of vital interest to the commerce
of the world ; but all these questions must be left
unsettled if the only feasible settlement should
happen to clash with the wishes of some sections
of Islam ! Must the British race forget the
treachery of the Turks, their alliance with the foes
of freedom, their attempt to ruin us by fanning
the flames of religious fanaticism in our Eastern
provinces ? Must we overlook the sufferings endured,
the young lives sacrificed, scrap the millions we
have lost, and run the risk of other perfidious
alliances more terrible than those we have crushed ?
Yet this is the meaning of the claim that the Turkish
Empire must not be brought before the bar of
justice because of its religious relationship to the
Mohammedan world. The decisions of the Paris
Conference will illustrate the extent to which our
European civilisation is affected by the religion
THE VALUE OF MESOPOTAMIA 25
There are, fortunately, many Mohammedans
to-day who abhor the barbarism of the Turks,
who refuse to mingle their religion with politics,
who acknowledge the moral standards of civilised
communities and are ready to recognise the rights
of those whose religious convictions are contrary
to their own. This more reasonable outlook will
save civilised nations from the perils of religious
fanaticism, but the chances of its survival will
largely depend upon the influences that penetrate
Arabia from the plains of Mesopotamia.
The British occupation of Irak has endowed the
country with two additional values, which though
transitory are remarkably interesting. We may
turn to Mesopotamia for a striking illustration of
what we mean by civilised methods in the conduct
of war ; here also we can behold the biggest experi-
ment in State Socialism that has ever been made.
Our military commanders have been accused of
extravagance because so much money has been
spent on docks, railways, and irrigation schemes.
It may be true that many mistakes were made,
that much money was unwisely spent and some
expensive schemes were subsequently abandoned ;
but all wars are characterised by wasteful extra-
vagance, and this work in Mesopotamia was based
upon military requirements. It was our way of
carrying on a war ; it has proved to be most success-
ful, much cheaper and ever so much more humane
than the methods adopted by Germany. We
conquered a formidable enemy in a land of morasses
26 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
and floods, where there were no roads, no railways,
and no transport facilities. We spent millions to
construct what in other lands the Germans spent
millions to destroy. We have also brought order
out of chaos and subdued many hostile tribes by
British methods of organisation rather than by
intimidation. As a military expedient for keeping
order amongst ignorant, turbulent tribes, an irriga-
tion canal can claim to be far cheaper and much
more useful than a punitive expedition. There
are many religious fanatics in Mesopotamia, as
the murder of Captain Marshall in Nejif so clearly
proved ; but the hatred naturally engendered
through the heretical beliefs attributed to a
victorious army has been largely dispelled by the
material benefits brought by the conquerors to the
districts they invaded. The Turks failed to rid the
land of brigands largely because they neglected to
provide their subjects with legitimate means of
gaining a livelihood. Every Kurd carried a rifle
instead of a bag of tools because he followed his
father's trade and levied blackmail on every hapless
traveller. He will shed less blood in the future
by taking a few civilised hints from the Railway
The inhabitants of Mesopotamia have given us
unmistakable proofs of their sincerity in welcoming
us. The traders acclaimed us as a commercial
race, powerful enough to secure order in the interests
of trade, and able to open up new spheres of com-
mercial expansion. The Sheikhs have welcomed
THE VALUE OF MESOPOTAMIA 27
us because we have backed up their authority over
their tribes and made them responsible for keeping
order. The Fellah also welcomes us because we
protect him against oppression and excessive
taxation. We have enabled him to get a better
livelihood than he ever had before. We have
given him advice and assistance in irrigation and
agriculture which has greatly increased his pros-
perity. Even the heads of religion have wel-
comed us. On the declaration of the Armistice a
remarkable demonstration took place in the sacred
city of Nejif. The spiritual leaders of the Shiah
sects assembled with 70 Sayyids, 170 Sheikhs with
2000 mounted and 500 unmounted followers, to
congratulate the British upon the defeat of Turkey.
In September 191 9 a great festival took place in
Kerbela, attended by a record number of 200,000
pilgrims. In a public manifesto the religious
leaders proclaimed their intense satisfaction with
the British administration and the facilities it
graciously accorded to the pilgrim traffic.
We have spent a lot of money upon Mesopotamia,
but the Turks spent far more and did nothing.
In view of their achievements, who will say that
the military administrators were extravagant ? In
addition to their conquests there is the inestimable
value of a contented population, augmenting the
utility of extensive docks, railways, and canals
that will materially benefit the British as well as
the natives for many years to come.
It is greatly to be regretted that Labour leaders
28 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
in the British Isles have apparently overlooked
Mesopotamia, where experiments have been carried
out in almost every phase and feature of State
colonisation and State control. There are volumes
of valuable records available, and a wealth of new
information worthy of the most careful considera-
tion by a Labour conference, which might reveal
a more practical path to an earthly paradise
than that pursued by the Bolshevists of Petrograd.
The completion of the work so well begun will now
apparently be entrusted to private enterprise, for
the Government was obliged to listen to the clamour
for economy. It is to be hoped, therefore, that
the companies formed for exploiting the vast
resources of Mesopotamia will consider the claims
of consumers as well as the dividends of share-
There are many who believe the interests of the
British public would be better served if the Empire
Resources Development Commission could be per-
mitted to control the major part of the agricul-
tural, engineering, and mining operations that are
necessary for the development of Mesopotamia.
They claim that the kind of Government aid asked
for by private companies has in the case of the
Anglo-Persian Oil Company, for example, evi-
dently benefited the shareholders without yielding
any corresponding advantage to the British con-
sumer. If the Government had retained, for ten
years, sole control of the agricultural and mining
interests of Mesopotamia, it would have been
THE VALUE OF MESOPOTAMIA 29
possible to relieve the British taxpayer by wiping
off some of the heavy debts incurred through the
Mesopotamian campaign, and in addition reduce
the price of some of the necessaries of life exported
from Basra to the British Isles.
In any case, whether it be by Government
control or by private enterprise, the development
of these vast resources will play no small part
in solving some of the labour problems of Europe,
besides providing a valuable object-lesson in the
advantages and disadvantages of colonisation under
It is obvious that Mesopotamia can only be
gradually developed. No one would claim that it
could possibly be otherwise. A suggestion was
made in The Near East, not so fanciful as it may
at first appear to be, that the pace of development
will depend somewhat upon the progress made in
designing tractors for use in agriculture. The
writer urged that the area which men can cultivate
is limited by the pace of the oxen which they drive,
that if oxen can be replaced by tractors much more
ground can be tilled, and irrigation schemes would
become remunerative far more quickly than is
possible under existing conditions.
We have elsewhere reviewed the value of the
ancient monuments of Mesopotamia, but we would
again emphasize the fact that, apart from its
potential resources and in addition to its value
as a centre of civilisation for the Mohammedan
world, the prime importance of Mesopotamia lies
30 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
simply in its geographical position. It was this
that gave Babylon its strategical and commercial
importance, which made Baghdad also the capital
of so great an Empire ; and once more, with the
development of overland communications, trunk
railways, tunnels, canals, and inland waterways,
the geographical bridge between the continents, so
long broken down by Turkish tyranny, has become
so important to the world's progress that it may
justly be claimed to be one of the most important
countries in the world.
The British Residency and Consulate General was one of the finest
buildings in Baghdad. The Germans persuaded a native protege
to build a small house by the side of the Residency. The
British Consul-General compelled the Turks to make him build
a high wall on the roof to prevent him spying on behalf of
In Basra and the Persian Gulf ports a weak disinfectant was squirted
over the mail-bags to purify the contents from cholera and plague.
THE CAUSES OF THE WAR
I made my first acquaintance with Mesopotamia
and the Turkish dominions in the autumn of 1894,
when I joined the staff of the C.M.S. in the city of
Baghdad. I thought I was destined to reside at
an outpost of civilisation where my life would be
quite uneventful, but I could hardly have chosen
a warmer spot, in more senses than one, where men
through the summer nights sleep on the roofs
and live in cellars by day, the hotbed of Eastern
plotters and Western intriguers, the rendezvous
of pilgrims and fanatics from every corner of the
earth. I became acquainted with many Indian
Nawabs who live in Baghdad and in the sacred
city of Kerbela as pensioners of the Indian Govern-
ment ; with renegade Afghan princes who had
fallen into disfavour with the reigning Emir ;
with restless Young Turks banished from Constan-
tinople by the tyranny of Abdul Hamid ; with
the leaders of the great Babi sect expelled from
Persia, and afterwards removed to Acre ; with
other more worthy notables, such as Prince Firman
32 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
Firma, who was then living in exile, and subse-
quently became Prime Minister of Persia. These
Eastern phases of Baghdad life were fascinating
enough, but, as the only European clergyman in
Mesopotamia, I was brought into touch with features
of Western politics which were of thrilling interest
and of world-wide importance. In addition to my
regular duties, I became honorary chaplain to the
German Consulate, where I married certain German
couples, baptized German infants, and was conse-
quently invited to the dinners, feasts, and festivities
that took place amongst the rapidly increasing
Prussian community in the city of Baghdad. It
was nearly twenty-five years ago that I first heard
of Germany's Drang nach Osten and began to take
an interest in the hopes, the aims and ambitions
of the greatest military Power in Europe. From
the lips of my German friends I learned that Bagh-
dad would become the centre of a great Asiatic
extension of the German Empire, an advanced base
for world-wide dominion. I heard a great deal
more about these Eastern ambitions whilst residing
for three years in Jerusalem, where German influ-
ence was particularly well marked. During a
seven years' residence in Syria I had occasion to
travel frequently into Asia Minor, along the line
of the Baghdad Railway, where I could not fail to
notice how completely the whole of that region
was rapidly falling under the control of the German
A few months before the war broke out, a
THE CAUSES OF THE WAR 33
European official came into my Seamen's Institute
at Beyrout to play a game of billiards, and, in the
course of conversation, informed me that he had
just arrived from Constantinople, " which," he
said, " is entirely in the hands of the Germans. The
Sultan dare not go to the Selamlik, or interview
any foreigner, without permission of the German
Embassy." The growth of German influence in
the Turkish Empire was remarkably rapid, and was
unfortunately utilised to perpetuate the worst
features of Turkish misrule, with the evident in-
tention of posing as the best friends of the Turks
and thus thwarting the economic or political
ambitions of every other European Power. If
Russia was, to some extent, responsible for the
plight of Armenia, Germany was unquestionably
to blame for the awful condition of Macedonia.
She believed a reformed Turkey would spoil her
prospects of control at Constantinople and imperil
her plans for a Pan-German road from Berlin to
Baghdad, so she did her utmost to foster the cor-
ruptions of the old Turkish regime, and hampered
every attempt that was made to establish peace
and good government in the Balkan provinces.
After the outbreak of war, Germany made no
secret of her war aims in the East. Serbia must
disappear, and the other Balkan States must lose
their independence, in order that Germany might
forge a permanent " political, economic, and military
link between Hungary and the Turkish Empire
between Constantinople, Berlin, and Vienna." It
34 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
is necessary to remember that the war did not begin
with Belgium, but with Serbia, clearly because, at
the conclusion of the Balkan wars, Serbia became
the barrier across the path of Germany's long-con-
templated expansion to the Eastern Mediterranean
and the Persian Gulf. This fact became more and
more evident with the progress of the war, and many
German writers acknowledged that these Eastern
aspirations were the real causes of the war.
In the Kreuz Zeitung Herr Otto Hotzsch wrote :
" Germany's Turkish policy the Berlin-Baghdad
idea was the one pillar of her world-policy and
the one great occasion of conflict with Great
Britain." In July 1918 the Rheinisch Westfdlische
Zeitung declared that, H should the British perman-
ently retain Mesopotamia, there would be no possi-
bility of German predominance in Asia Minor.
Everything must be done to free Egypt from the
claws of the British lion and to place the Suez
Canal, as in old times, under Ottoman authority,
and consequently under that of the Central Powers."
Again, on 5th October 191 9 the following words
appeared in Capt. Von Salzmann's military article
in the Vossische Zeitung : " Had we succeeded in
cutting in two the British world-empire by the
occupation of Egypt and the Suez Canal, by com-
pletely safeguarding the Persian Gulf-Afghanistan
line, the war would have been decided in our favour."
These extracts suffice to illustrate the avowed
intentions of Germany in the Near East. Her
plans not only constituted a menace to British
THE CAUSES OF THE WAR 35
hegemony in India, but were evidently deliberately
aimed at the ruin of the British Empire. A well-
known French publicist expressed his conviction
in the Figaro that, " If the Germans enter Con-
stantinople and open their great road from the
mouth of the Elbe to the mouth of the Euphrates
and Tigris, the whole fabric of British Imperialism
is concerned. The whole magnificent edifice of the
British Empire will be shaken to its foundations."
Prince Lichnowsky confessed in his Revelations
that Great Britain yielded again and again to the
ever-growing demands of Germany's schemes in
Mesopotamia, though many of our leading states-
men protested that these concessions would imperil
the safety of the British Empire. Whilst we were
making every possible attempt to appease Germany,
her representatives were actively intriguing to under-
mine British prestige in the East and to oust the
last semblance of British influence from Afghanistan,
Persia, and the Persian Gulf.
In addition to this deliberate bid for military
supremacy and political power, it was also evident
that Germany aimed at a monopoly of the world's
trade. In November 1917 President Wilson
criticised Germany's appeal for peace and asserted
that, whilst Germany referred to Belgium and
Alsace-Lorraine, she persistently declined to make
any suggestion about what was, after all, the heart
of the whole matter. She contended that all
questions concerning the Balkan States and the
old Turkish Empire were matters of her domestic
36 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
concern. The President declared " that lying
behind the thoughts of the German Government,
in its dreams of the future, was the determination
to dominate the labour and industry of the world.
The Germans were not content with success by
superior achievement ; they wanted success by
authority. The Berlin to Baghdad Railway was
constructed in order to bring a threat of force down
the flank of the industrial undertakings of half a
dozen other countries, so that, when German com-
petition came in, it would not be resisted too far
because there was always the possibility of getting
German armies into the heart of that country
quicker than other armies could be got there.
From Hamburg to Baghdad a bulk of German
power would be inserted into the heart of the world.
If she could keep that, she would keep all that her
armies contemplated when the war began, and her
power to disturb the world would last as long as
she kept it."
The control of Turkish finance and the Ottoman
railways by the Berlin Bank was of a nature that
threatened to throttle completely any but German
trade. The merchants in Turkey were able to
offer three years' credit to their customers, for the
Berlin Government supported the claims of her
bankers, who attracted depositors by the offer of
4 per cent, interest upon current accounts.
Twelve months before the outbreak of war I
paid a visit to the mountains of the Hauran south
of Damascus. I had conversations with all the
THE CAUSES OF THE WAR 37
leading chiefs of 50,000 Druzes whom the Turks
attempted at the instigation of Germany to
deprive of their time-honoured privileges. They
were thought to be too friendly to England and too
dangerously near the Hedjaz Railway ; so they had
to be crushed. A large army under Sami Pasha
was brought against them, but after many months
of guerilla warfare he failed to subdue these moun-
tain warriors; so he resorted to more "kultured"
methods, in accordance with his German training.
He invited the chiefs to a conference and promised
them safe conduct. They were all arrested as soon
as they arrived at the General's tent, for " necessity
knows no law," as the German Chancellor said, and
" scraps of paper can easily be torn up." The lead-
ing Druze chief was executed in Damascus, and his
brother only saved his life by sending a messenger
to the villages to fetch his old mother, who quickly
collected three thousand five hundred pounds in
gold as a bribe to the General. The chief was then
banished to Rhodes, and when the island was taken
by the Italians he was released and with difficulty
reached Cairo. Lord Kitchener intervened with
the Turks on his behalf, and he was eventually per-
mitted to return to the Hauran, where I saw him on
the occasion of my visit. He showed me, amongst
other things, his new steam flour-mill, and told me
to observe that all the machinery was made in
Germany. He whispered a few words in my ear
which led me to make further inquiries elsewhere.
I learned that English merchants had introduced
38 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
twenty or thirty oil engines amongst the Hauran
Druzes ; but Germany came along to assist her
ally the Turk, and a Prussian engineer prowled
around these mountain villages of the Hauran,
ostensibly to undertake necessary repairs, with the
result that the English engines were soon displaced
by those of German manufacture. Backed by the
German Government through its consuls and its
banks, the engineers of Haifa were able to introduce
more than five hundred engines into the Hauran,
where, under ordinary circumstances of legitimate
trade, we could easily have secured an excellent
market for the merchandise of Great Britain.
The imposition of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty
upon prostrate Russia clearly brought to light
another feature of Germany's war aims. She
desired to monopolise the food-supplies of that
great country for her own manufacturing areas,
so that her manufactured goods would in return
be forced upon the Russian merchants. The
anticipated German control of Constantinople and
the Dardanelles likewise aimed at the economic
ruin of Russia or her submission to German
Another great scheme of navigable inland water-
ways was frequently referred to by eminent German
writers. By deepening her canals and joining up
the great rivers of Europe she would be able to
send ships of 1500 tons burden through the continent
from the North Sea to the mouth of the Danube.
The scheme was expounded at the Central Europe
THE CAUSES OF THE WAR 39
Congress at Munich by Professor Oelwein, v who
sketched the ideal canal system as follows :
1. The Central Canal connecting all the navigable
streams, from the Rhine to the Vistula,
which flow into the North Sea and the
2. Navigable connection of the North Sea and
Baltic ports with the Danube and the Black
Sea by way of the Danube-Oder Canal.
3. Navigable connection of the Rhine with the
Danube and the Black Sea by the canalisa-
tion of the Main and the construction of a
new Ludwig Canal.
These canals would form the main
arteries from west to east and from north
to south-east. The subsidiary waterways
would be as follows :
4. The Rhine connected with the Dortmund-Ems
Canal in the north, and, after canalisation
of the way from Basel to Schaffhausen, con-
nection with Lake Constance in the south.
5. Continuation of the Weser to the Main and to
the Danube and to Munich.
6. The Elbe, connected with the ways that are
already being canalised, to Prague.
7. The Oder.
8. The Vistula, connected with the continuation
of the Danube-Oder Canal to Cracow.
9. Continuation of the Danube-Oder- Vistula
Canal to the Dneister.
40 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
10. Canalisation of the Save, connected on the
one hand with the Danube by a canal
from Bukovar to Samatz, and on the other
hand with Fiume and the Adriatic.
ii. A waterway from Semendria on the Danube
through the valleys of the Morava and the
Vardar to Salonika.
These inland waterways were to be supplemented
by some remarkable canals through the Manytch
Depression from the Don to the Volga. As the
Caspian Sea is 85 feet below the level of the Black
Sea, it was pointed out that by means of these canals
a considerable portion of the low-lying districts of
South Russia would be flooded by raising the level
of the Caspian Sea, and thus create a navigable
waterway from the Black Sea to the Far East. It
was furthermore declared that the whole of German
interests in Europe and Asia could be adequately
protected by an enormous establishment of German
Zeppelins and airships upon the Gobi plateau.
Many of these vast schemes appear somewhat
visionary and impracticable, but these are times of
great engineering achievements, and it is impossible
to deny that further advances in scientific know-
ledge will alter the aspect of many great problems
within the next fifty years. It is clear, however,
that Germany ignored the claims of other nations,
for her plans were outlined upon the assumption
that the whole world must lie at her feet.
To understand the significance of her intentions,
THE CAUSES OF THE WAR 41
it is necessary to glance at a few geographical and
historical facts. If we regard Asia Minor as belong-
ing more to Europe than to Asia, we shall observe a
triangular stretch of land lying in the heart of the
Eastern Hemisphere and forming a junction for
the three continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Mesopotamia is on one side of the triangle, Syria and
Palestine on the other, Aleppo lies at the apex,
while a line drawn from Gaza to Basra forms its
base. These little lands have played a most im-
portant part in the world's history. Besides being
the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of
peoples, nations, languages, and religions, they
have contained for millenniums the capital cities of
great world-empires. For many centuries also the
greatest of the world's highways passed through
this important area. The geographical importance
of Mesopotamia and its ancient capitals is well
described by the late Dr King in the following
" Babylon's geographical position endowed her
with a strategical and commercial importance which
enabled her to survive the rudest shocks to her
material prosperity. A glance at the map will show
that the city lay in the north of Babylonia, just
below the confluence of the two great rivers in
their lower course. Built originally on the left
bank of the Euphrates, she was protected by its
stream from any sudden incursion of the desert
tribes. At the same time she was in immediate
contact with the broad expanse of alluvial plain to
42 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
the south-west, intersected with its network of
canals. But the real strength of her position lay
in her near neighbourhood to the transcontinental
routes of traffic. When approaching Baghdad from
the north, the Mesopotamian plain contracts to
a width of some thirty miles, and although it has
already begun to expand again in the latitude of
Babylon, that city was well within touch of both
rivers. She consequently lay at the meeting-point
of two great avenues of commerce. The Euphrates
route linked Babylonia with Northern Syria and
the Mediterranean, and was her natural line of
contact with Egypt ; it also connected her with
Cappadocia, by way of the Cilician Gates through
the Taurus along the track of the later Royal Road.
Herodotus describes the Royal Road of the Persian
period as passing from Ephesus by the Cilician Gates
to Susa, and it obtained its name from the fact
that all government business of the Persian Court
passed along it. The distances, given by Herodotus
in parasangs and stades, may well be derived from
some official Persian document ; but it followed
the track of a still earlier Royal Road, by which
Khatti, the capital of the old Hittite Empire, main-
tained its communications westward and with
the Euphrates valley. Farther north, the trunk
route through Anatolia from the west, reinforced
by tributary routes from the Black Sea, turns at
Sivas, on the Upper Halys, and, after crossing the
Euphrates in the mountains, first strikes the
Tigris at Diarbekir ; then, leaving the river for the
THE CAUSES OF THE WAR 43
easier plain, it rejoins the stream in the neighbour-
hood of Nineveh, and so advances southward to
Susa or to Babylon. A third great route that
Babylon controlled was that to the west through
the Gates of Zagros, the easiest point of penetration
to the Iranian plateau and the natural outlet of
commerce from Northern Elam. At the present
day this forms the great trunk road across the
highlands of Persia, by way of Kermanshah ; and
since the Moslem conquest it has been the chief
overland route from the farther East for all those
making the pilgrimage to Mecca. Babylon thus
lay across the stream of the nations' traffic, and in
the direct path of any invader advancing upon
the southern plains." x
I venture to add another quotation from a more
recent book by Mr Evans Lewin, who says : " Meso-
potamia itself, the country between the rivers,
forms one of the most remarkable regions of the
world. Stretching between the two mighty water-
ways of the Tigris and Euphrates and spreading from
the foothills of the Armenian mountains to Baghdad,
and thence by extension to the head of the Persian
Gulf, it forms a natural avenue between the East
and the West, a strategic highway of supreme im-
portance, narrowing to a comparatively small
outlet into Persian waters, and an economic road
over which were carried the riches of Asia to be
exchanged for the products of Europe. Held
successively by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians,
1 History of Babylon, p. 4.
44 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
Greeks, Romans, Arabs, and Turks ; the home of
many of the mighty cities of antiquity, such
as Babylon, Nineveh, Asshur, Edessa, Hit, Ctesi-
phon, and Thapsacus ; crowded with the wonder-
ful ruins of buried civilisations, and holding in its
alluvial lands the secrets of primitive ages it
presents a standing evidence of the frailty of all
things and of the permanence of change and decay.
Mighty emperors have held sway over its destinies ;
warriors have crossed its torrid and sweltering
lands on their journeys of conquest. Here were
the palaces of Sennacherib and Asshurbanipal,
of Nebuchadnezzar and Tiglath - Pileser. Here
marched Alexander on his way to the conquest of
India ; Trajan, Julian, Saladin, and the romantic
Haroun 1 Raschid, who made Baghdad the centre
of all the wit, learning, and art of the Moslem world ;
and to these regions have turned the thoughts of
conquerors and warriors in all ages of the world.
It is obvious that a country which has played so
important a part in history from whose bosom
have sprung many of the civilising agencies of the
past ; which has attracted the adventurous from
all parts of the known globe must possess qualities
and resources of an uncommon order. In addition
to its extraordinary fertility, it was the highway of
antiquity and the clearing-house of commerce.
Germans, with their keen eye to commercial
advantages and with their appreciation of strategic
values, have recognised, in spite of new strategical
and commercial developments, the possibility of
THE CAUSES OF THE WAR 45
re-erecting the ancient empires of the East and of
re-opening a great commercial and therefore strate-
gical route from Hamburg to the Persian Gulf, and
incidentally of attacking Great Britain in two of
her most vulnerable points Egypt and India." 1
The monarchs of Persia brought formidable armies
from Mesopotamia along these ancient highways
to Egypt and to Europe. Alexander the Great
ultimately drove back the Persians at the battle of
Issos, and routed them near the plains of Arbela.
On his return from India he chose the banks of
the Euphrates for the capital city of his contem-
plated world-empire, but he died at Babylon before
his plans were complete.
There is another great road that was immensely
important for many generations. It became known
as the " Silk Street " route, from the fact that the
silks from China were brought by caravans along
this road in almost a straight line to the shores of
the Mediterranean. The route was recently sur-
veyed by Sir Aurel Stein on the initiative of the
Government of India. He took two and a half
years to complete his survey, and reported many
interesting things that clearly indicated the popu-
larity of this famous road for many centuries.
The greater part of the road has also been surveyed
by modern engineers with a view to railway con-
struction. Wherefore we may assume that in due
time there will be a trunk railway running from
Pekin through Central Asia, and thence either
1 The German Road to the East, p. 33.
46 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
through Persia to Baghdad or more directly to
Aleppo, where it will meet the great Baghdad
Railway. On the 3rd of April 191 6 a lecture was
delivered in Berlin by a member of the Prussian
Parliament before the members of the German-
Chinese Union, in which the lecturer claimed that
" the German world-empire could only be estab-
lished on the basis of overland dominion extending
from the North Sea to China by way of Turkey
and Persia. A British blockade could be rendered
absolutely ineffective if Germany controlled the
ancient " Silk Street " highway. China and Persia
could provide the legions for the war of 1927 with
all the food, petrol, copper, and cotton required to
establish the Teuton as master of Europe and Asia."
In the days of Queen Elizabeth, when the British
began to lay the foundations of their present com-
mercial prosperity, there was established in Aleppo
the headquarters of the famous Levant Company.
The silks from China and the treasures from India
which found their way to Aleppo, were sent off by
British merchants from Alexandretta to the British
Isles. There were then so many pirates in the
Mediterranean Sea that it became necessary to
organise, for the protection of merchantmen, what
then became known as the British Royal Navy.
Ever since the Turks came into possession of
these Eastern highways, they have been practically
useless and unsafe for all ordinary travellers, so
that the important junction between the continents
has been blocked for centuries.
THE CAUSES OF THE WAR 47
The insecurity that prevailed at the eastern end
of the Mediterranean Sea led to the discovery of
America when Columbus and others set out to
find a safer route round to the East Indies, and con-
sequently discovered the Western Continent. It
was in those days that the Mediterranean merchants
controlled the major part of sea-borne traffic, and
the most important ports of the world were Venice,
Genoa, and Amain. In 1497 Vasco da Gama dis-
covered the Cape route to India, with the result
that the flourishing ports of the Mediterranean Sea
were practically ruined by a change of front in the
world's activities. With the opening of the Suez
Canal, the Mediterranean became once more the
most important route from West to East, but the
immense changes which have taken place during
the last thirty years all tend to accentuate the
growing importance of the ancient overland routes
of the world.
The Swiss mountain ranges have now been
tunnelled in a remarkable way, powerful locomo-
tives have come into use, international sleeping-
cars and refreshment-cars are available for over-
land travellers on transcontinental railways, so
that before the war it was possible to go with ease
and comfort from London to Constantinople in
three and a half days. Motor traffic is being
further developed, electric power for railways is
being brought into more frequent use, inland water-
ways can now be utilised for cheap transport in a
way that was impossible half a century ago. Many
48 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
schemes are being brought forward by prominent
engineers for a great ship canal from Antwerp to
Marseilles ; for a branch waterway from the Danube
to Salonika ; for another great canal, 969 miles long,
from the mouth of the Orontes to the head of the
Persian Gulf. In addition to motor roads, inland
waterways, and the great railway routes, the world
is now face to face with a new aerial navigation
that will necessitate the organisation of recognised
overland routes and the establishment of aerodromes
which may become as important to the traffic of
the future as the rocky harbours and storm-pro-
tected ports have been to the sea-borne traffic of
Never before have the nations of the world been
compelled to recognise, as they do to-day, their
absolute dependence upon one another for very
existence. Problems of finance, labour, and food
supplies are all international. The great manufac-
turing areas of the West cannot exist without
adequate supplies of raw material from Asia and
Africa, and multitudes of Easterns have perished
from the lack of supplies from the West. It is a
matter of prime importance to the world that all
the essential lines of communication should be
most carefully guarded and constantly kept open.
It is hardly less important that the vast neglected
areas of Asia and Africa should be properly
developed in order to safeguard humanity from
famines, wars, or social revolution. It is further-
more impossible for the Western peoples to hope
THE CAUSES OF THE WAR 49
for a higher standard of living without the greater
production of which these Eastern lands are capable,
and the possibility of more rapid communication
between East and West.
All these considerations have brought the little
lands that join the three continents into far greater
prominence than ever they were before. The
nations of the world will perish by social upheavals,
tumults, famine, and war if Turkey is permitted any
longer to hold the bridge and block the way. The
statesmen of Europe saw this ; Germany saw it, and
tried to place her mailed fist upon the key to the
whole world's future. The military correspondent
of the Times was not far wrong when he sug-
gested that this war might become known as " The
War of the Turkish Succession/' Prussia's military
adventures had always proved to be so profitable
that she deemed herself justified in preparing
for world-wide conquest. The Baghdad Railway
scheme was the most important instrument that
she would utilise for this end, and by capturing
the control of the Turkish Empire she would
obtain command of the Dardanelles, the Euphrates
valley, and the Suez Canal. It is also well known
that she intended to drive a great German wedge
across the heart of Africa, for the British in East
Africa discovered that German maps were placed
in the hands of native schoolmasters to teach the
children how much of Africa would come under
German control with the expulsion of the British at
the conclusion of the war. So many concessions
50 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
had been made to Germany's persistent demands in
the Near East that her contemplated world-empire
began to assume a definite shape. The Mittel
Eur op a scheme would give her control of one con-
tinent, the Baghdad Railway with the hegemony
of the Ottoman dominions would give her control
of another, and the restoration of Egypt to the
Ottoman Empire would bring the third continent
under her control. Australia then would become
her prey, and the greatest world-empire ever con-
ceived would be at the feet of the Kaiser, who, of
course, would champion the cause of the Teutons
in the Western Hemisphere. There is now no
question that Germany faced eastward when she
began the war, and that Mesopotamia was her real
front. With the defeat of Germany, the world can
only reap the fruits of victory when adequate safe-
guards have been secured in the East for the great
overland routes from Paris to Pekin, from London
to Australia, from Petrograd to the Cape.
THE STORY OF THE BAGHDAD RAILWAY
When Germany defeated France in 1870 she not
only deprived her neighbour on the western border
of the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine, but she
reorganised the Central States of Europe into a
great unified German Empire, and at once began
to push forward a large number of railway schemes
eastward through the Balkan States towards
Constantinople. For this purpose she was able to
utilise the enormous indemnity which she had
wrested from France, so that in less than twenty
years a great new trunk line was completed through
Eastern Europe, and in 1888 the first train of the
Orient Express steamed into Constantinople. This
necessitated a new defensive and economic outlook
for all the countries of Europe.
For many years Great Britain had sought for
opportunities to develop a short route from Europe
to India. In 1837 large sums of money were spent
upon the survey of the Euphrates valley. A
concession for a railway from Alexandretta to the
Persian Gulf was obtained from Turkey in 1851.
52 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
For various reasons, more or less connected with
the knotty Near Eastern problems, this Euphrates
valley scheme was unfortunately given up. In
1876, when we purchased four million pounds worth
of shares in the Suez Canal, we apparently believed
we had secured something better than a railway
line through the Euphrates valley. It looked as
though the interests of the British Empire were
adequately safeguarded by the substantial control
we thus acquired over the newest and shortest
route to India and the East. A few years after-
wards, however, it became evident that another
road was about to be developed by Germany
through Constantinople and the Euphrates valley,
for an important little railway from Scutari to
Ismid passed from British ownership into German
This line, which may well be called the first
section of the Baghdad Railway, was originally
constructed by the Turkish Government, but under
Turkish control it was a complete financial failure.
It runs through a very delightful piece of country,
where many of the wealthy Turkish officials and
merchants have their private residences. They
go by rail and ferry to Constantinople every day,
just as the London city man lives in the suburbs
and goes daily to London by train. Under the
corrupt system of government that prevailed in
Turkey, only the poor and those without influence
were expected to pay their fares ; the pashas and
their relatives rode to and fro free of charge ; they
THE BAGHDAD RAILWAY 53
transported their possessions, their merchandise,
and the goods of their supporters, gratis. The
pashas received bribes for the privileges they
secured to their friends, so they practically pocketed
all the proceeds, while the railway administration
The Government now tried to sell the line to a
British company, but the German and the French
ambassadors protested that its sale to the British
would be regarded as an unfriendly act. An agree-
ment was eventually arrived at whereby the line
was leased to a British company for twenty-five
years, and the lessees were to have preferential
rights for extending the line to Angora and
eventually to Baghdad. Thus the great Baghdad
Railway scheme was originally a British concern,
and I have shown that it was also a British con-
ception, for the Euphrates valley route was surveyed
by the British in 1837, in 1851 we held concessions
for a railway, and now once more in 1878 a British
company leased a railway with concessions that
provided for its extension to the city of Baghdad.
By the end of three years the new directors had
converted a deficit of 40,000 per annum into a
profit of 24,000.
When the Ismid line passed into the hands of a
British company, two of the directors were un-
fortunately Germans, who persistently endeavoured
to bring the railway under German control. They
succeeded in compelling the British representatives
to retire ; then the line reverted to the Government,
54 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
and was subsequently handed over by the Turks
to the Deutsche Bank.
Under British control, all the materials, the
machinery, and most of the staff came from
England; but after 1881 everything came from
Germany. The Germans now obtained further
concessions with additional guarantees from the
Turks, and launched a new company upon the
London financial market. Strange to say, the
British company had failed to interest English
financiers in the British Baghdad Railway scheme,
but the new company under the auspices of the
German Bank succeeded in raising from London
1,000,000 in 5 per cent, bonds.
In less than five years from the acquisition of
the Scutari-Ismid Railway the Germans had com-
pleted a line to Angora, and two important new
concessions gave Germany the right to extend
the line north-east to Kaiseriyeh, Sivas, Diar-
bekir, and Baghdad, also south-east to Eski-
Shehr and Konia. On account of representations
made by Russia, the former route was given up,
though after the outbreak of war a certain portion
of it was constructed, chiefly with the aid of
British prisoners who were taken by the Turks at
Kut 1 Amara. The line to the south, however,
was pushed forward, and 269 miles were completed
Some very interesting postcards were sent to
me by the brother of a British officer who was
one of the prisoners working on the lineat Angora.
THE BAGHDAD RAILWAY 55
They contained a few important messages which
revealed some of the ingenuity displayed in
eluding the Turkish censor. One of them ran
" We have arrived here safely, and perhaps we
shall go on to Constantinople, but write to me
upon the railway. If possible, send me some
books like Matt. x. 27. My love to all."
There was as much information on the front as
on the back, for we noticed that the card was
wrongly addressed, though it reached its destina-
tion safely, as the brother was a well-known man.
Instead of Haddon House there was " Haddon
Lamv," and instead of 31 Brunswick Road there
was 4-9 Brunswick Road. Now the card came
from Angora and contained a strange reference
to the railway ; Matt. x. 27 says, " What I tell
you in the darkness, that speak ye in the light " ;
and Lamentations v. 4-9, disguised in the address,
says, " We have drunken our water for money ;
our wood is sold unto us ; our pursuers are upon
our necks ; we are weary, and have no rest. We
get our bread with the peril of our lives." In this
way the Foreign Office was informed of the fact
that the railway was apparently being extended
from Angora, and that British prisoners of war
were being compelled to construct it under very
trying conditions. The second postcard ran as
56 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
217 Haddon Hym,
3 Brunswick Verse,
14 All well. Thanks for taking so much trouble
about books. No signs of them yet, but less urgent
now, though useful for others less favourably
placed. Hope Bella is doing as well as Bruno.
What is her latest address ? "
In this postcard the writer thanks his brother
for referring to the Foreign Office, and indicates
his removal from Angora, though others were still
working on the line. " Bella " refers to the war in
general, and " Bruno " refers to the Russian bear,
who was then approaching Erzeroom. The third
verse of the hymn suggested by the address inquires
as to the probable termination of the war. This
young officer, who kept up an ingenious corre-
spondence, was one of the party that made the
remarkable dash of 450 miles to freedom.
Angora is famous for its breed of sheep and
goats that produce a peculiarly valuable wool.
Some of these goats were introduced into South
Africa some years ago, and a better quality of
Angora wool has been obtained from the Cape
than that which came from Asia Minor.
Eski-Shehr is situated about 2000 feet above
sea-level, and after the advent of the railway it
became a flourishing town and the chief depot
THE BAGHDAD RAILWAY 57
for the German Anatolian lines. Large quantities
of wheat and fullers' earth were annually exported
from this district, and it is especially famous for
its excellent meerschaum mines. The Turks derived
a revenue of 8000 a year from the royalties and
taxes on the mines, which, according to an item in
the railway concessions, were now to be better
managed and exploited by the Germans.
From Eski-Shehr the line proceeds for 100 miles
to Afiun-Kara-Hissar, where it connects with
another line from Smyrna, which also originally
belonged to a British company, and passed under
French control in 1893. The Turks made use of
this Smyrna railway and the branch line from
Magnesia to Panderma for the purpose of bringing
reinforcements to the Dardanelles at a time when
our submarines worried the shipping in the Sea
The next important stopping-place on the main
line, 169 miles south of Afiun, is Konia, a city of
about 30,000 inhabitants, where there are many
interesting remains of the Biblical Iconium, in what
was once the Roman province of Lycaonia. The
Turks took a special pride in Konia, with its highly
respectable industry in gloves and stockings.
They said it was the first place visited by Noah
when he came out of the ark, for its altitude is
3320 feet ; and they did not hesitate to tell you
that he came there to purchase a new pair of
gloves and some stockings. The headquarters of
the Dancing Dervishes, with the gorgeous tomb
58 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
of their founder, are at Konia. The religious
chief of this sect, known as the Chelebi Effendi,
is the man who girds every new Sultan with the
sword of Osman on his accession to the Sultanate.
Not many years ago an over-zealous Turkish
official confiscated a case of New Testaments and
imprisoned the Armenian colporteurs because he
scented a revolutionary plot in the highly sus-
picious Epistle to the Galatians. The unfortunate
Armenians were told they would be detained in
prison until they divulged the whereabouts of the
revolutionary writer of the Epistle, named Paul.
The original Anatolian Railway terminates at
Konia, where now also the Baghdad Railway
proper begins. Though technically distinct, they,
practically became one enterprise, in which the
Deutsche Bank invested 16,000,000 sterling.
After leaving Konia, the railway runs through
a large arid plain for 25 miles to Chumra
station, where the Germans successfully began to
irrigate over 130,000 acres of the Konia plain by
the water brought from the lakes of the district.
Some of the extensive wheat-fields supplied even
Berlin with corn during the progress of the war.
The line, after running through a deserted plain
that ought to become populous and fertile under
a decent government, reaches the most difficult
portion of all, and runs through the Taurus Moun-
tains near the famous Cilician Gates to Adana.
The two tunnel sections through the Taurus
and the Amanus Mountains are extremely interest-
THE BAGHDAD RAILWAY 59
ing, and exhibit remarkable engineering skill.
The preliminary survey of this portion of the line
presented special difficulties on account of the
precipitous nature of the mountains. A special
theodolite was invented for photographing the
mountain passes, and the tunnels were planned
from maps made from photographs. There are
four tunnels through the Taurus and fourteen
through the Amanus Mountains, the former with
a total length of n miles and the latter with
a total length of about 5 miles. The Baghche
tunnel through the Amanus range is 5300 yards,
the longest tunnel in Turkey. It rises 245 feet
from the level of the western entrance, and descends
only 45 feet to its eastern exit. It was very badly
ventilated, and when the engines were using
briquettes for fuel the passengers endured for
nearly half an hour one of the worst imaginable
discomforts of railway travelling. These tunnels
were only completed a few weeks before the signing
of the Armistice, and, though not properly lined
with masonry, they are cut through such hard rock
that they appeared to be perfectly safe. Numbers
of workmen were engaged upon the tunnels under
the direction of our Royal Engineers when I passed
through in the summer of 191 9.
Bozanti is one of the highest points in the
Taurus range, where the mountain scenery is magni-
ficent. All the lower hills are covered with thick
forests, water power is plentiful, and many valuable
mines are said to exist in the vicinity. There is
60 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
enough wood and coal in the Taurus to supply the
needs of Egypt and the Levant. The plains of
Cilicia could easily be irrigated, and much greater
quantities of cotton could be grown in the Adana
plains, where some ill-equipped factories have
already done remarkably well.
Thousands of British prisoners of war laboured
to complete this vitally important section of the
Baghdad Railway, and the well-filled cemeteries
tell their tale of the numbers who perished under
the lash of their Turkish taskmasters. At Bele-
madik, near Bozanti, I was told of a Turkish officer
who had a cinema erected, compelled all the railway
employees as well as the prisoners to witness the
frequent display of German propaganda films, and
deducted the price of the tickets from their allow-
ances or pay. At the conclusion of the war he
retired with his fortune to Constantinople, where
he posed as a friend and brother to the Allied
prisoners of war.
There are not many places in Europe that com-
bine so great a variety of natural beauty with a
wealth of mineral and agricultural resources as the
country through which the railway passes from
Konia to Aleppo. The enormous quantities of Ger-
man war material captured by the British all along
the line from the Baghche tunnel to Bozanti, the
large Turkish buildings at Islahiyeh, the quantities
of military encampments and the miles upon miles of
Decauville lines running hither and thither amongst
the mountains, indicated the immense importance
THE BAGHDAD RAILWAY 61
to the Central Powers of these strategic strongholds
during the progress of the great World War. With
the aid of the Baghdad Railway and its tributaries
through Palestine, the largest army in the world
could here be safely sheltered and equipped for a
speedy descent upon Egypt or the plains of Meso-
potamia. If only Germany had managed to escape
from the toils that held her armies in the West,
Cilicia might have become her principal base of
operations for expansion in the East.
There is a useful little railway from Adana to
Mersine, and three branches, completed or pro-
jected, between Adana and Aleppo one from
Toprak-Kalah to Alexandretta, another to Marash,
and a third to Aintab. The main line enters
Aleppo and connects with the French lines through
Syria, but the junction for the Baghdad line
is at Muslimiyeh ; thence it proceeds to Jerablus,
where the Euphrates is spanned by a magnifi-
cent bridge, and so on to Ras 1 Ain, Nisibin, and
Mosul. Many fine bridges and costly viaducts
have been constructed in different parts of the line,
and the piers of some of them exceed ioo feet in
A northern extension of the railway has been
surveyed from a point near Jerablus to Birijik,
Urfa, Diarbekir, and Erzeroom, where it will some
day be connected with the existing lines that run
through Tiflis in the Caucasus. Another branch
has been planned to run from Ras 1 Ain to Mardin,
Diarbekir, and thence on to Sivas and Angora.
62 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
Besides the commercial advantages of the northern
connections, they would be immensely serviceable
in securing a peaceful settlement of the Armenian
In order to speed up the construction of this
strategic railway and establish through communica-
tion between Berlin and Baghdad, the Germans
brought large quantities of railway material to
Basra and completed a line of 70 miles from
Baghdad to Samarra before the outbreak of war.
Though the most important part of Baghdad lies on
the eastern bank of the Tigris, the Germans built
their railway station and other large buildings on
its western outskirts. The first sod was cut at
Baghdad with becoming pomp and ceremony, in the
presence of every available German and Turkish
official and a large assembly of Arabs. A silver
trowel with an ebony handle was produced, but,
unfortunately for the Germans, the handle broke,
and thereby the Arabs discerned an evil omen, while
the Europeans present observed that the handle
was evidently made of deal cleverly " ebonised "
by the makers in Germany.
The completion of the Mesopotamian section of
the Baghdad Railway rests with the British, who
have considerably modified the original plans. The
Germans intended to bring the railway down the
right bank of the Tigris from Mosul to Samarra,
but it seems probable that the main line will now
proceed from Mosul to Baghdad through the more
populous districts to the east of the Tigris.
THE BAGHDAD RAILWAY 63
Over a thousand miles of railway were con-
structed by the British Army in Mesopotamia
between the occupation of Basra and the conclu-
sion of peace with Turkey. Some of it has been
taken up, and some which was laid down for purely
military purposes will be altered and relaid with a
different gauge. At the end of 19 19 there were
945 miles of railway being constantly used in
A beginning was made with a line from Basra to
Nasiriyeh, on the Euphrates. Another line ran
from Kurna to Amara, and a metre-gauge line was
completed by August 1917 from Kut to Baghdad.
While the journey of 108 miles by rail was accom-
plished in twelve hours, the river journey of 200
miles between Baghdad and Kut could not be done
in less than two days.
Another metre-gauge line was sent out eastward
to Bakuba, and thence to Kuretu, near Kasr-i-
Shirin, on the Persian frontier. A standard-gauge
line of 48 miles was made to Felujah and Dibban,
on the Euphrates, while another standard-gauge
line was completed in May 191 8 to Hillah
and Babylon. This was extended southward to
join up with the line from Basra to Nasiriyeh.
The first through train left Basra at midnight,
13th January 1920, and arrived at Baghdad South
Station on the afternoon of 15th January. The
German line from Baghdad to Samarra has also
been extended northwards beyond Tikrit on the
way to Mosul, and direct railway connection is
64 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
being made between Kiit and Basra. Practically
the whole of the material used for this network of
lines in Mesopotamia, and almost all the personnel
engaged in its construction, came from India.
In addition to the railways, the British military
engineers constructed hundreds of miles of motor
roads to all the important places that could not be
reached by a railway line. From the railhead at
Kuretu, on the Persian frontier, there is a particu-
larly good motor road, constructed by the Royal
Engineers, which runs over the Pai-Tak Pass to
Kermanshah and Hamadan. There is no doubt
that the railway line from Baghdad will soon be
extended to Hamadan and the Persian capital,
whence it will proceed towards Seistan, and be
joined to the new line which has recently been
constructed to Seistan from the Indian frontier.
There is only one tram-line in Mesopotamia, that
runs for three miles from Baghdad, on the west of the
Tigris, to the sacred city of Kasmain. It is a relic
of the past, assigned by reliable authorities to the
Ottoman period, though it might be easily mistaken
for a prehistoric antiquity. The primitive chariot
with its shapeless steeds is doomed to disappear,
though it has been a boon to multitudes of weary
pilgrims who had to traverse this sultry stage of an
earthly pilgrimage with their goats, hens, and other
live stock ad infinitum. There will always be plenty
of passengers for the electric cars or motor omni-
buses that may henceforth be run as adjuncts to
the Mesopotamian railroads.
THE BAGHDAD RAILWAY 65
Two interesting official statements recently issued
at Baghdad illustrate the rapidity with which
advantage is taken by merchants and pilgrims of
the newly constructed roads and railways.
The line to Hillah was completed in May 1918,
and in six months over 60,000 tons of wheat and
barley were brought from Babylon to Baghdad,
and in the same time the pilgrim traffic to the
Kerbela shrines doubled all previous Turkish
The second statement referred to the resumption
of traffic through Kurdistan, the most turbulent
part of the Turkish Empire. Brigandage had be-
come so rife around Suleimaniyeh that for many
years before the war the roads were impassable.
Many critics too hastily declared that the Kurds
were an insoluble problem to the British Army ;
but, far more speedily than the greatest optimists
could have anticipated, a motor road was made,
brigandage was suppressed, a revolt was quelled,
and pilgrims from Northern Persia began to pass
safely through Southern Kurdistan.
The utility and value of the Baghdad Railway
were considerably enhanced by the completion, in
quite recent years, of a number of lines through
Palestine and Syria. In the summer of 191 9 I was
able to travel all the way by train from Cairo to
Constantinople, visiting many important places on
the branch lines. The numerous streets of well-
built houses around the two great railway stations
at Aleppo present a very different aspect from the
66 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
cornfields I saw in 1906, when I was privileged to
enter the city by the first construction train.
Whilst on a journey that summer from Beyrout
to Aintab I made the acquaintance at Hama of the
chief engineer, who kindly permitted me to travel
on the first train that passed through to Aleppo.
Throngs of people were awaiting its arrival at 6 a.m.,
yelling and dancing about all over the lines, so that
the engine-driver was obliged to let off steam from
every valve, in order to clear the track as the train
crawled into the unfinished station.
The line from Aleppo to Rayak is 206 miles in
length, and belongs to a French company. It runs
through fairly level, fertile country by the prosperous
Arab towns of Hama, where there is a large suspen-
sion bridge over the Orontes, Hums, the ancient
Emesa, Baalbec, famous for its gigantic ruined
temples, to Rayak, whence an extension has been
surveyed due south to a point on the Palestine
Railway north of Ludd.
There was another French line from Hums to
Tripoli, a distance of 65 miles, which was broken
up by the Turks during the war. It may some day
be rebuilt and extended through the fascinating
ruins of Palmyra to Anah, on the Euphrates.
Another French company owns the Lebanon
Railway, which runs from Beyrout to Damascus
through the junction at Rayak ; and the same com-
pany built the dismantled line which ran from
Damascus to Mezerib.
The Lebanon Railway, with its rack-and-pinion
THE BAGHDAD RAILWAY 67
system, is a narrow-gauge line of many steep
gradients, so that even the specially powerful engines
are only able to draw a very small train at a slow
pace to a height of 5000 feet at Ain Sofar. A very
limited service only is possible on a line that entails
considerable expense in its working, and for through
traffic to Damascus the Haifa Railway may become
its formidable rival. It will always be a popular
railway, however, on account of the magnificent
mountain scenery through which it passes, and
the numbers of salubrious hill stations, to which
the Syrians and Egyptians resort in the summer
The Hedjaz Railway is an important line built
for the Turks by German engineers, from Damascus
to Medina. It will probably be extended to Mecca,
where it will be connected with a line to Jedda.
Another branch is projected from Yambo, on the
Red Sea, to Medina. Maan is the nearest station
to the wonderful rock-hewn city of Petra; and a
branch line is projected from Amman to Jericho,
in the Jordan valley, where it will meet the carriage
road to Jerusalem.
An interesting line which was torn up during the
war ran from Deraa to Bosra-Eski-Sham, where
preparations had been made for its extension to
Salkhad. It is not impossible that this line may
eventually be further extended through a piece of
barren country, which is by no means a sandy
desert, to the city of Baghdad, a distance of 400
miles only from the Mediterranean port of Haifa.
68 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
The line from Deraa to Haifa, under Mount
Carmel, was partly built by a British company that
surrendered its concessions to the Turks in 1902.
A narrow-gauge line runs from Haifa to Acre, but
the main line of the Palestine Railway, constructed
during the Armistice, winds around the spur of
Mount Carmel and proceeds in a straight line to
The well-known metre line from Jaffa to Jeru-
salem was built and owned by a French company.
The section from Ludd to Jaffa was destroyed by
the Turks, but the more interesting portion from
Ludd to Jerusalem remained intact, and is now in
The most important part of the new Palestine
Railway was immensely useful to the military ex-
pedition, and promises to remain for all time one of
the most valuable assets for the inhabitants of the
Holy Land. It runs from Ludd to Gaza, and thence
across the Sinaitic desert to Kantara, where it is
at present connected with the Egyptian railways
by a swing bridge across the Suez Canal, though
in years to come its connection with Egypt will
probably be made by means of a tunnel already
designed to pass under the Canal.
Most of the Turko-German railways in Palestine
were broken up, and remnants of the numerous
Decauville lines could be traced in different parts of
the country. Many new bridges and culverts are
still being built, the more permanent lines are being
strengthened, and new tracks are being constructed
THE BAGHDAD RAILWAY 69
in different parts of Palestine, Syria, and Meso-
The German concessions for the Baghdad Railway
made provision for one train every day in each
direction between Haidar Pasha and Aleppo, also
for a weekly express train to Aleppo and a fort-
nightly express train both ways between Con-
stantinople and the Persian Gulf. The express
trains were to average 28 miles an hour for the first
five years, after which the speed must be increased
to 37 miles an hour. At this comparatively slow
pace, the journey from Constantinople to Baghdad
would take about two and a half days ; from London
to Baghdad or Egypt, about five and a half days ;
and from London to India, seven or eight days.
It is easy to imagine that this enormous network
of new railways running through a central portion
of the Eastern Hemisphere will revolutionise the
conditions of Asia Minor, Syria, and Mesopotamia,
and affect the future developments of Africa and
THE PERSIAN GULF
It may soon be possible to travel from London to
Baghdad in about five days, and by aerial naviga-
tion in less than half that time ; but the quickest,
safest, and best route to Mesopotamia for the last
quarter of a century has been by way of India,
through the waters of the Persian Gulf a matter
of five or six weeks' journey from London to
From Bombay to Basra the voyager traverses
the oldest sea-route in the world. In hoar antiquity
the Babylonians and the Persians sent their ships
from Mesopotamia to India and Ceylon. It was
in the Persian Gulf that the art of navigation was
acquired by the Phoenicians, who, after their migra-
tion to Syria, piloted their vessels from Tyre and
Sidon to the ports of the British Isles. Nearly
two thousand years before the Portuguese explored
the waters of the Gulf, Alexander the Great sent
his admiral, Nearchus, from the mouth of the
Indus to the estuary of the Euphrates ; and for
four thousand years the traffic through these
THE PERSIAN GULF 71
phosphorescent waters enriched the leading empires
of the East and played an important part in the
history of the continent of Asia.
On my many voyages to and from Basra I learned
to understand and appreciate something of the
valuable services rendered to humanity by the
achievements of the British Navy in securing the
'? freedom of the seas." In 1894 1 took an interest-
ing photograph in the Red Sea of a pretty little
gunboat under full sail with its studding sails set,
for it was on its way to the waters of the Far East
to do duty of a similar kind to that which was done
by the little gunboats of the Royal Indian Marine
constantly engaged in policing the waters of the
Persian Gulf. When on that voyage I reached
Muscat, I was taken by the American missionary
to see a group of eighteen negro lads who had
recently been rescued from a slave dhow by a
British gunboat, and were now being tenderly
cared for at their mission school.
The inhuman traffic in slaves was one of the things
encouraged by the Turks, especially when, for a
short time, they got a footing at two small ports
on the Arabian coast, and, by the energies of
the great Midhat Pasha, established the feeble
Kaimakamate of El-Hasa. They permitted slave
dhows to fly the Ottoman flag for the express
purpose of facilitating the importation of slaves
into the markets of Basra and Baghdad, since the
ownership of slaves was always lawful through-
out the Turkish dominions. One of the thankless
72 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
tasks assigned to the Royal Indian Marine was to
suppress this traffic in slaves, and the difficulties
encountered were greatly increased when some of
the dhows managed to secure from Jibuti the pro-
tection of the French flag.
Muscat is one of the hottest places on earth,
and even the Sultan thought so in February 1895,
when the Bedouin looted the town, destroyed his
palace, and kept him a prisoner for a few days in
one of the Portuguese forts till reinforcements
arrived to rescue him. A similar revolt took place
in January 191 5, but it was speedily quelled with
the aid of a small British force sent from India at
a time when the turbulent tribesmen supposed we
were too preoccupied to interfere with their piratical
A Persian writer, in attempting to describe the
heat of Muscat, declares " that it melted the sword
in its scabbard, and the gems that adorned the
handle of his dagger were reduced to coal ; that in
the plain the chase was a perfectly simple matter,
for the desert was filled with roasted gazelles."
The Infernal Regions are said to be not far from
Muscat, but I never stopped there long enough to
verify the statement.
The British Residency, situated in the only
breezy corner of a town that is furiously hot all
the year round, is the finest house in Muscat and
commands a beautiful view of the broad ocean
through the great rocks to the right, as well as a
perfect view to the left of the picturesque town and
THE PERSIAN GULF 73
harbour. The European cemetery is strangely
situated in a sheltered nook with its own sandy
beach between precipitous rocks, quite near the
town, but unapproachable by land, so that every
funeral must proceed by boats for more than an
hour's row to this quiet resting-place on the Arabian
shore. Here, amongst other heroes of the British
race, lie the mortal remains of Bishop French, the
famous seven-tongued Bishop of Lahore, who spent
the last years of his saintly life as an honorary
missionary to the Arabs.
Quite close to Muscat and connected with it by
a narrow mountain path is the busy little seaport
of Mattra, whose importance consists in its being
the terminus of the caravan routes from the
interior. These rocky harbours are remarkable
for the enormous quantities of fish they contain,
for fishes are so plentiful along the coast of Oman
and so easily caught that they are used as fodder for
cows and asses and utilised as manure for the fields.
The ruined Portuguese forts that crown the rugged
heights of Hormuz and Muscat recall the days of
good Queen Bess, when four enterprising English-
men, after a voyage which lasted for months, dared
to enter the Persian Gulf and, after visiting every
port, were arrested for their impudence by the
Portuguese and carried off as prisoners to Goa, in
India. Their experiences however, within and
without their prison walls, led eventually to the
formation of the famous East India Company and
to the speedy opening up of the Persian Gulf to
74 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
British traders. The Portuguese so persistently
barred the way and obstructed our commercial
enterprises that the British Navy in due course
appeared before the forts of Hormuz to defend the
rights of peaceful merchantmen. They were obliged
to wrest the island from the Portuguese when they
handed back to the care of the Persians the now
opened gates of the Persian Gulf. Our merchants
of the Levant Company in Aleppo had already
begun to trade with Mesopotamia, and in 1618 the
East India Company succeeded in establishing
commercial relations with the port of Jask, on the
Mekran coast, opposite Muscat, while another
trading depot was soon afterwards opened at
The voyager from India along the coast of Belu-
chistan sometimes calls at small, uninteresting
places like Gwadir and Charbar, but he is agreeably
surprised to discover at Jask a small colony of
English people, who occupy a group of excellent
buildings belonging to the Eastern Telegraph Com-
pany ; for in this desolate and dreary corner of the
Mekran coast there is an outpost of civilisation
and an important British telegraph station.
Bunder Abbas, twice visited by Marco Polo,
is an unattractive port, but one of peculiar
interest from its connection with the changes and
developments now taking place in the Near East.
It is situated on the Persian coast at the very
entrance to the Gulf, for the Gulf of Oman forms
a kind of vestibule to the Persian Gulf proper, and
THE PERSIAN GULF 75
Bunder Abbas, with the island of Hormuz, guards
the main entrance to this great inland sea.
This is the port for Kerman, Yezd, and Eastern
Persia, and the roads traverse a number of mountain
ranges before reaching the central plateau. It
was for centuries the flourishing terminus of im-
portant overland trade routes from Europe, whence
also the goods were passed on by sea to India.
In 1899 Russia contemplated extending her rail-
way systems through Persia to Bunder Abbas, and
it looked at one time as though serious friction
would arise between England and Russia ; but
fortunately satisfactory negotiations resulted in an
amicable settlement, and Russia abandoned her
plan of securing a railway terminus in the Persian
Gulf. About the same time we made a suggestion
to Russia with regard to the organisation, under
British officers, of a Persian gendarmerie for the
robber - infested provinces of Southern Persia.
Russia, however, considered that Great Britain
would in this way obtain too much influence in the
Shah's dominions, so we yielded to her representa-
tions and consented to the organisation of a Persian
police force under Swedish officers. Immediately
after the outbreak of war, the majority of these
Swedish officers turned traitors, repudiated Persia's
neutrality, and joined forces with the revolutionary
bands that were organised under the German Prince
Reuss. Sir Percy Sykes, our British Consul, to-
gether with the British colony and the Russian
Consul, were driven out of Kerman and took refuge
76 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
at Bunder Abbas. A new arrangement was now
speedily concluded with Russia, and Sir Percy Sykes
began, at the fine British Consulate in Bunder Abbas,
to organise an efficient military gendarmerie under
British officers. It numbers something like 15,000
men, and Southern Persia is to-day more peaceful
and secure than it has been for a century and more.
Over against Hormuz there is the terrible Pirate
Coast, where for centuries the Arab pirates were
able to shelter in their well-protected lagoons, and
whence they sallied forth to attack peaceful traders.
The suppression of piracy was the most difficult
of all the arduous enterprises undertaken by the
British Navy in its determination to establish order
and security throughout the Persian Gulf. A
determined attack was made upon the pirates'
stronghold in 1806, when one of their fleets was
captured and they were compelled to sign certain
treaties of peace. They completely failed, however,
to abide by the terms of their contract, and con-
tinued to attack British merchant ships that traded
in the Gulf, and on one occasion they actually
secured a small British warship. The extent to
which they were able to carry on their nefarious
operations can be estimated if we remember that in
18 18 the pirates commenced to ravage the west
coast of India, and in the following year a fleet of
sixty-four pirate vessels, manned by 7000 armed
men, appeared off the coast of Kathiawar. It
became necessary to organise a second large military
expedition against the pirates, and by the combined
THE PERSIAN GULF 77
efforts of our Army and Navy we were able to subdue
them effectively in 1820. Constant watch, how-
ever, has been necessary ever since that time to
prevent some evil-minded chief from resuming the
much-loved occupation of piracy. And here again,
when the Turks occupied a small portion of the
Arabian coast, this was one of the things which
they persistently encouraged.
Gun-running was another favourite occupation
which was with difficulty suppressed by the gun-
boats of the Royal Indian Marine that patrol the
Persian Gulf waters. This illicit traffic in modern
firearms supplied the turbulent tribes of the interior
with the weapons they needed for robberies and
raids, and its suppression produced a comparative
cessation of tribal warfare in many inland pro-
vinces far removed from the northern shores of the
Gulf, to the very frontier of India.
Ling ah. The first and the prettiest port in the
Persian Gulf on the north side, beyond Kishim, is
another interesting Eastern town which has played
its part in some of the most stirring events that
precipitated the great World War. Lingah is a
port of call for the British India steamers, and the
Company's well-ventilated offices are a prominent
feature of the busy foreshore, where at times an
exceptionally large number of native boats are
moored, mostly connected with the pearl fisheries
not far away.
Some of the shops in the bazaars are owned by
Indian Banians, who represent the most flourishing
78 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
class of traders at all the ports in the Persian Gulf.
It is probably not realised in the British Isles how
enterprising are some of our British Indian subjects,
and how they have extended their commercial
operations, under the security of the British Raj,
far away from the shores of the Indian peninsula
to some of the most remote corners of Asia and
In 1896 a German trading company began
business, on what appeared to be a harmless scale,
at Lingah, where the German agent, Wonckhaus,
commenced to trade in oyster shells and mother-of-
pearl ; for the small island of Abu Musa, over against
Lingah, marks the beginning of the great pearl
bank which reaches to the islands of Bahrain. In
addition to his interest in oyster shells, Wonckhaus
became secretly connected with a concession to work
the red oxide deposits that exist on Abu Musa. The
island belongs to the Sheikh of Shargah, on the
Arabian coast, who gave a concession to three
Arabs to introduce machinery and work the red
oxide deposits. One of these Arabs lived at
Shargah, and the others were in business at Lingah.
Nothing much was done, however, until ten years
afterwards, when the Sheikh of Shargah learned one
day to his intense surprise that the Germans practi-
cally claimed possession of his island. It trans-
pired that the two Arabs in Lingah had acted on
behalf of Wonckhaus, who had purchased their rights
for the Hamburg-American Steamship Company
and now openly claimed German protection for his
THE PERSIAN GULF 79
interests on the island. The Sheikh of Shargah
refused to recognise the Germans' secret transactions
and sought the intervention of Great Britain, in
accordance with a treaty which had long existed
between our authorities and the Sheikh ; but the
German agents ignored the rights of the Arab
chief, so at length, in October 1907, a British gun-
boat towed a number of the Sheikh's sailing-ships
to Abu Musa with 300 of his armed men on board.
They removed the native workmen from the oxide
deposits and transferred them to Lingah, but they
foolishly fired, so the Germans declared, on a boat
that was flying the German flag. The German
press became furious, and every effort was made to
magnify the incident into one of supreme inter-
national importance. Germany was unable to
press the matter, for it was clear that the Sheikh of
Shargah had a perfect right to object to the transfer
to the Germans of the concession he had made to
three of his own people, and moreover the chief's
long-standing agreement with Great Britain ex-
pressly forbade the granting of such a concession
to any European merchant, even though he were a
British subject. Here, at least, we have a signifi-
cant illustration of Germany's flagrant disregard for
treaties, and one of her early attempts to tear up
an inconvenient " scrap of paper " that did not
meet with her approval.
Bahrain. The great pearl bank which extends
from near the Pirate Coast to Bahrain is the most
wonderful feature of the Persian Gulf, and nearly
80 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
a million pounds worth of genuine as well as
fabricated pearls are exported annually from the
headquarters of the pearl trade at the so-called
M Pearl Islands " of Bahrain. The largest of these
islands is about 27 miles long by 10 broad, on the
north side of which lies the largest town, Menamah,
with about 10,000 inhabitants. This is the com-
mercial centre for all the Bahrain Islands, containing
the Post Office and the Custom House. Not far from
Menamah are the ruins of an old town containing
a mosque with two minarets in fair preservation and
marked with inscriptions in the old Cufic character.
The unexplored tumuli of the old Phoenician city
of Gerrha are situated on the mainland of Arabia,
and there are large numbers of similar mounds on
The islands are also remarkable for the number of
underground rivers which they contain, and the
parent source of the numerous lukewarm fresh-
water springs must evidently be far away on the
mainland of Arabia. One of the largest springs
issues from the midst of a reservoir 30 yards wide
and about 30 feet deep,. similar to the great spring
at Ras-Baalbec in Syria. The abundant stream of
fresh water which flows from this spring averages
6 feet wide and 2 feet deep. Near Muharrek some
of the springs bubble up under the sea not far from
the shore, from which the natives procure water by
using a long bamboo weighted at one end, so that when
it reaches the bubbling spring the fresh water gushes
out from the end of the bamboo just above sea-level.
THE PERSIAN GULF Si
Most of the export pearl trade is controlled by
Indian Banians from Karachi, but the pearl fishers
are Arabs, and for centuries they have enjoyed the
exclusive right to work on the pearl bank. Their
" trade union " regulations have always been recog-
nised by the British authorities so much so that
British merchants and Indian Banians have never
been allowed to seek for concessions that would
in any way compete or interfere with the lawful
privileges of these Arab fishermen. The bank is
apportioned in sections to the different Sheikhs
and towns of the Gulf, and during the pearl season,
from June to October, a British gunboat is on guard
keeping order amongst the workers.
The German capitalists of the great Berlin Bank
and the Hamburg-American Steamship Company
conceived a plan that would effectively break up
this most ancient trade guild of the Arab pearl
divers, so the first step was taken when in 1901
the German firm of Wonckhaus removed its head-
quarters from Lingah to Bahrain. The following
year the German intriguers at Constantinople
persuaded the Sultan to revive an imaginary claim
to sovereignty over the great pearl bank, and
at the same time to grant a concession to the Ger-
mans to work the fisheries by scientific methods.
Their scheme, they thought, would bring untold
wealth to the capitalists, a substantial share of
the proceeds would be given to the Sultan, and, of
course, a German fleet would be needed in the
Persian Gulf to take over the duties of the British
82 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
gunboat and to substitute German discipline for
the peaceful trade unionism so sedulously fostered
by the British amongst the horde of superannuated
pirates, who would still be needed as slaves for the
fisheries and could be exploited for the promotion
of German Kultur. Great Britain, however, in-
formed the Sultan that his supposed sovereignty
over the Persian Gulf fisheries was a vain delusion,
and that a German monopoly could not therefore
be recognised. Germany, however, made another
attempt to secure a footing upon the great pearl
bank, and asked the Sultan for a lease of the
uninhabited island of Halul. This little island,
situated in the centre of the fisheries, is immensely
valuable to the fishermen in stormy weather, as
it possesses an excellent harbour, well sheltered by
rocks, and containing a secure anchorage for thou-
sands of sailing-ships. Again the British authorities
informed the Sultan that it was impossible for him
to give away what did not belong to him, and
Germany's little scheme for the possession of a
coaling station or a fortified Heligoland in the
midst of the Persian Gulf once more fell through.
In 1905 the Germans approached the Sheikh of
Bahrain and attempted to obtain direct from him
concessions similar to those which had been sought
from the Sultan of Turkey ; but the Sheikh reminded
the Germans of his treaties and agreements with
Great Britain, and referred them for an answer to
the British authorities. Once again Germany
failed to secure by guile the possessions she had
THE PERSIAN GULF 83
hoped to seize ten years previously by force of arms.
It was in 1895 that Germany was working out
in Constantinople her preliminary plans for the
invasion of the Persian Gulf, and the Turks were
instigated to seize at once the islands of Bahrain.
A fleet of native boats filled with armed men set
out one day from the Turkish coast, but the
British authorities had obtained information of the
project, and a British gunboat broke up the fleet
in the sight of the Turkish officials who were watch-
ing from the shore and waiting, when the fight
was over, to cross and take possession of the newly
acquired islands of Bahrain. The feeble hold which
the Turks had secured on the coast of El-Hasa was
finally relinquished in 1913, when the forces of
Ibn Saood drove out the last remnants of the
An additional interest attaches to Bahrain from
the fact that the famous Force D under General
Delamain, which so speedily captured Basra, was
waiting at Bahrain when war was declared against
Turkey in November 1914. The treacherous Turks
had already admitted the Goeben and Breslau
into Constantinople, and it was correctly surmised
that they would attempt to destroy the British oil
factory at Abadan, and make an attack on Koweit
or Bahrain. On the 18th of October a force of 5000
men was despatched from India to Bahrain under
the escort of H.M.S. Ocean, which was subsequently
torpedoed in the Dardanelles. A curious obstacle
suddenly blocked the way of the transports when
84 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
a huge waterspout compelled the whole convoy to
alter its course, and the guns of H.M.S. Ocean
opened fire upon an unexpected enemy, which
subsequently, in another form of floods and rain,
proved to be the most formidable foe to this same
expeditionary force in Mesopotamia.
The waters around Bahrain contain a mass of
reefs and shoals, so that ships drawing 18 feet have
to anchor three miles out, while H.M.S. Ocean,
which drew 27 feet, was obliged to anchor fourteen
miles from land. Only very small boats can get
through the shallow waters to within fifty yards
of the shore, and, in the absence of a jetty, it was
customary for passengers to be carried on the backs
of the sturdy Arabs, or landed with the aid of donkeys
when these were procurable.
The German agent of the Wonckhaus firm was
arrested as soon as the officers of the convoy were
able to effect a landing. He was taken in the act
of signing a letter which turned out to be a correct
report on the strength and composition of Force D,
and furthermore stated that another 10,000 troops
were shortly coming from India. This information
was also correct, though it was not actually known
to the English staff till some weeks later. The
German agent, however, had already managed to
despatch this information to Bushire and Basra
immediately after the arrival of the transports.
Bushire, or Abu-Shehir, the father of cities, is
what Westerners would prefer to call the metropolis
of the Persian Gulf. It is situated on the coast of
WW A *
THE PERSIAN GULF 85
Persia immediately to the north of Bahrain, whence
the main roads proceed across the mountains to
Shiraz and Teheran. The all-important British
Residency and Consulate-General is at this place,
and the well-trusted British Residents, who so
honourably maintain the high traditions of British
administrators, are unceasingly occupied with most
important duties of an onerous nature, in preserving
the security and peace that have so long prevailed
in the Persian Gulf.
On one occasion, when visiting Bushire, I came
across a group of Arab chiefs from the interior of
Arabia. They informed me that they had come
down to the Arabian coast in order to pay homage
to the Sheikh of Koweit, for they recognised that
Ibn Raschid, the Turkish representative, was no
longer the most powerful man in Arabia. The
chief of Koweit had advised them to visit the
British Resident at Bushire, who would register
their rights and privileges, and would take care
that, as far as possible, justice should always be
done to them in times of difficulty or danger.
Large numbers of pilgrims travel by the British
India steamers from Bushire to Basra, and thence
to the holy cities of Mesopotamia. On one occasion
six holy Persians from the interior approached the
British India agent for tickets to Basra, and they
were informed that the mail steamer would arrive at
six o'clock the following morning. Unaccustomed
to such clockwork movements, they rebuked the
agent for his confidence and for omitting to use
86 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
the customary " Inshallah," " for," said they, " the
mail boat will only arrive if it be God's will." " Of
course," replied the agent ; " but I warn you to be
here by six o'clock, or else you will miss the boat."
So on the following morning they were sitting on
the beach at dawn, when sure enough at six o'clock
the mail steamer arrived four miles from the shore at
its customary anchorage. " There it is," said the
agent ; " I told you it would be here." " Wonder-
ful ! Wonderful ! " exclaimed the holy men. " This
cannot be the work of God : it is the doings of the
I have had some disagreeable experiences at
Bushire, when navigating the four miles of zigzag
roadstead between the mail boat and the shore,
which passengers must cross in the native sailing-
boats. That little journey took me more than two
hours one rough day when we appeared to cover
a good twelve miles as we tacked to and fro around
the Persian Navy, before the wind would allow us
to come alongside the steamer. The Persians can
boast of one solitary warship, the Persepolts, which
is generally stationed at Bushire, though sometimes,
in favourable weather, it ventures as far as Lingah
and Bunder Abbas.
I once asked the chief officer of our mail boat
how they managed to navigate these difficult waters
with so few accidents. He showed me the charts
produced by the Admiralty from time to time
since the Navy began a marine survey of the Gulf
in 1785 ; he pointed out the beacons we have
THE PERSIAN GULF 87
erected and the buoys with which the British
steamship companies have marked out the road-
steads and the great mud " Bar " ; and he reminded
me that the smart little Patrick Stewart, which I
had frequently seen in the Gulf, was the telegraph
ship that made itself responsible for the care of all
In September 1914 one of our Intelligence officers
sent off from Bushire a young Afghan, who, on
arrival at Basra, questioned the Turks about the
possibility of a " Holy War." They informed him
that they intended bringing an army through
Afghanistan on its way to India, and that therefore
he would be able to assist them in arousing the
Afghans to respond to the demands of a Holy War.
They permitted him, therefore, to ramble about
the Turkish camps, and for nearly six weeks he
watched the German agents of the great commercial
Wonckhaus Company travelling up and down the
Shat '1 Arab in a Turkish gunboat, instructing the
Turks as to how they should hide their batteries
and conceal their guns amid the date palms that
line the banks of the Shat 1 Arab. This was at a
time when the Turks in Constantinople were pre-
tending to be sincere in their determination to
maintain neutrality. The Afghan slipped out of
the country two weeks before the outbreak of war,
and the information which he communicated to his
chief proved to be of real value to General Delamain
in spotting the concealed batteries during the
advance towards Basra.
88 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
Koweit. The last port in the Persian Gulf
is likely to become the most important of all.
Koweit is now a prosperous town of about 50,000
inhabitants, where twenty years ago its population
numbered less than 12,000. It is the cleanest place
in the Gulf, and its wide, spacious streets present a
striking contrast to the unsavoury slums in the
ports on the Persian shore. It possesses more
" bugalows " or sailing-ships than any other port
in the Gulf ; it is famous for its excellent dockyard,
its numerous boat-builders, and its up-to-date
condenser, the largest of its kind in the world, which
provides for the inhabitants 450 tons of fresh water
daily, distilled from the deep blue sea. About 400
boats are sent annually from this port to the pearl
fisheries, and hundreds of cargo boats not only visit
all the ports in the Gulf, but extend their operations
to India, East Africa, and the ports in the Red Sea.
These well-travelled mariners are the news-
vendors and journalists of the East. When they
brought back their date cargoes from Basra in
the winter of 19 14, it is reported that they spread
abroad their own dramatic account of British
victories. " A British steamer fired two shots. At
the first shot 300 Turks fell, at the second shot 400 ;
then the governors fled, and the Turkish troops
followed them in flight from Basra."
Koweit is equally important to the internal affairs
of Arabia as it is to its external relations. The main
roads for pilgrims and caravans proceed from this
rendezvous to Nejd, Mecca, the Jebel Shammar,
THE PERSIAN GULF 89
and Damascus. It is quite possible a railway will
some day be constructed from Suez to Koweit in
almost a straight line through Akaba and the Jauf .
The town is improving very rapidly, the value of
land has been steadily rising for some years past, and
there are already some very fine buildings. The
Sheikh's palace has been vastly improved in recent
years, and instead of the old Turkish flag with the
crescent and star he flies his own distinctive red
flag with the word " Koweit " embroidered upon it
in white letters. It is the Sheikh's custom to sit in
a coffee-house or reception hall near one of the gates,
where he receives visitors, dispenses justice, and
watches the passers-by. Another nice building
in the place is the American Mission Hospital,
constructed of steel and reinforced concrete, with
two comfortable residences in the same compound.
Some of the people tried to organise an opposition
hospital a few years ago and placed a Turkish
doctor in charge, but the adventure came to naught,
and the Sheikh of Koweit one day handed over
the surgical instruments and the microscope as
a present to the American Mission Hospital. A
land telegraph has now established communica-
tions between Koweit and Basra, and there is
also a temporary wireless installation.
There are always many large Bedouin encamp-
ments around Koweit, belonging to different tribes.
The Abu Suleib is a large tribe that claims a
Christian origin. Its name is the diminutive of
the Arabic word for a cross, and in connection with
90 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
their rites of circumcision they make use of a small
cross that is decorated with brightly coloured
ribbons. Some authorities suppose they are de-
scended from the Levantines of the Crusaders'
armies, who remained behind when the bulk of the
Crusaders returned to Europe.
In February 1915 the Viceroy of India paid a
visit to Basra, and called in at Koweit, where, on
behalf of King George, he conferred the K. C.S.I.
upon the famous Sheikh Mubarek.
It is a most fortunate circumstance for the East
that Arabia produced two wonderful men during
the last half-century. They both had much to do
with the trend of political events. One of them
was the Sheikh of Koweit, a far-sighted, untutored
Arab who ruled his provinces with a strong hand
and shaped the policy of so many of the inland
tribes. He was a great reformer, and the pros-
perity of Koweit is due almost entirely to his
foresight and enterprise. When he commenced
to rule in Koweit, his people were content to drink
the brackish water that could be found anywhere
by digging a few feet in the sands. Mubarek
organised a fleet of boats which sailed regularly
backwards and forwards to the Shat 1 Arab for the
purpose of bringing fresh water, a distance of about
70 miles. He then introduced a steam tank-ship,
which was found to be too expensive for the purpose ;
and at last he caused to be installed the magnificent
condenser, which appears to be working remarkably
THE PERSIAN GULF 91
On the advice of Great Britain, he devoted himself
to the attainment of one great object, namely, the
uniting together in bonds of friendship all the
prominent chiefs of the Arabian peninsula ; and in
this endeavour he was seconded by the other re-
markable man, the chief of Nejd, who has also been
knighted and is now known as Sheikh Sir Abd-el-
Aziz Ibn Saood. Sheikh Mubarek died in Novem-
ber 1 91 5, and was succeeded by his son, Sheikh Jabr,
who wisely determined to carry on the policy of
his distinguished father. Ibn Saood is undoubtedly
one of the most influential -and important men in
Arabia, and, in spite of the fanaticism of his Wahabi
followers, he has exerted his authority in support
of every attempt made to bring union and concord
amongst the Arab tribes, and to open up the
Arabian peninsula to trade and the influences of
This remarkable town of Koweit is chiefly famous,
however, for its magnificent harbour, which contains
about 25 square miles of deep water and is well
protected at its entrance by a small island. It was
this wonderful harbour that attracted the cupidity
of the German intriguers. When the Germans
completed the survey of the Baghdad Railway,
they decided that their important trunk line must
terminate at Koweit, and four very deliberate
attempts were made to get possession of the Sheikh's
In the year 1900 the German Railway Commission,
headed by the Consul-General from Constantinople,
92 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
appeared at Koweit with an offer to purchase or
lease an area of 25 square miles ; but the Sheikh
informed the Germans that they were a little too
late, for it was in 1899 that our agreements with
Mubarek were strengthened in such a way that he
was not permitted to give any of his territory to the
Sultan's German friends without the sanction of
the British authorities. A second attempt was
made with the aid of Ibn Raschid, who, in the pay
of the Germans and the Turks, attempted to pick a
quarrel with the chief of Koweit and by force of
arms deprive him of his territory. This scheme
also came to naught through the timely assistance
of Ibn Saood ; but a third attempt was made, when
a Turkish army of 14,000 men was mustered at
Nasiriyeh for the purpose of invading the Sheikh's
territory and forcing from him all that the Germans
and the Turks required. Great Britain, however,
notified the Sultan that this could not be allowed,
and that we were prepared to stand by our written
agreements and defend with armed forces this
independent chief of Arabia. The Turkish Navy
was ordered surreptitiously to effect a landing at
Koweit and to take prisoner the Sheikh Mubarek ;
but our naval authorities obtained timely warning
of their intention, and while the rusty Turkish
gunboat was struggling for three days to raise the
anchor and get up steam at Basra, a British gun-
boat appeared upon the scene from Bombay, and
the Turks were forbidden to land men in the harbour
of Koweit. Still another desperate effort was made,
THE PERSIAN GULF 93
when the Turks pretended to champion the cause
of the Sheikh's nephew, who claimed the chieftain-
ship of Koweit; a flotilla of native boats filled
with armed men was mobilised at the island of
Bubian, and was proceeding to make a raid upon
Koweit when it was suddenly intercepted and imme-
diately dispersed by an ever-ready and ever-
vigilant British gunboat.
Thus ended the last of a series of conflicts with
pirates and Prussians, slave-traders and Turks,
for the maintenance of good order, just dealing,
liberty, and peace in this the most primitive of the
world's waterways, the birthplace of the earliest
of ancient mariners, the cradle of navigation.
After a century's hard work, the British Navy has
accomplished something in the Persian Gulf, and
the world must acknowledge that this something
should be called " the Freedom of the Seas."
THE BASRA BAR
Germany's ambitious intentions were thwarted
to some extent by the existence of a natural barrier
known as the Basra Bar. The enormous quantities
of alluvial deposit brought down by the two great
rivers of the Tigris and the Euphrates have created
through the centuries an immense deposit of mud
which blocks the entrance to the great river known
as the Shat 1 Arab. It is believed that the Persian
Gulf at one time reached as far north as Kurna, so
that the whole of the country around Basra has,
in the course of millenniums, been created by the
mud brought down with the Mesopotamian floods.
It is claimed that the land around the estuary of
the Tigris and Euphrates has been advanced at
the rate of 72 feet every year. The Bar to-day
begins not far from Fao and extends for about seven
miles out to sea. A narrow channel that runs
through the Bar was marked with much difficulty
by the British steamship companies, who placed
buoys here and there for the guidance of mariners.
It was often extremely difficult to discover this
^mf^^ t :.y
(i) The Arch of Chosroes at Ctesiphon (p. 140). (2) A view of Baghdad
from the Infantry Barracks, looking south. (3) A primitive irri-
gation "Cherad" at KutTAmara (p. no).
THE BASRA BAR 95
channel, and on one occasion, whilst proceeding to
Basra by the mail steamer, we missed it and were
stuck in the mud for over thirty hours, with the
engines at full speed the whole time. The Basra
Bar was naturally a very great handicap to all
shipping entering the ports of Basra, Mohammerah,
and Abadan. Only vessels of less than 18 feet draught
could cross the Bar, and then of course it was neces-
sary to follow carefully the buoyed channel.
It was this Bar which presented serious difficulties
to the British Expedition. It caused considerable
delay in bringing reinforcements and supplies to
the troops in Mesopotamia. All the larger vessels
were obliged to tranship the troops and stores
outside the Bar into smaller boats which conveyed
them to Basra. It was in the autumn of 1914 that
our military operations began, and, on account of
the intense summer heat in Mesopotamia, all our
most important military movements subsequently
took place in the winter ; but it is always in the
autumn and winter months that furious storms are
met with at the northern end of the Persian Gulf.
The difficulties of transhipment on the high seas
were therefore considerably increased at a time
when so much bad weather prevailed.
The Bar is still a formidable obstacle to the
commercial development of Mesopotamia, as all
incoming and outgoing vessels have to be lightened,
a slow and dangerous business involving consider-
able expense. It is calculated that a ship of 8000
tons is generally delayed about ten days, which is
96 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
roughly a third of the time it should take for such a
ship to perform the entire journey from Basra to
the British Isles.
This was unfortunate while the war lasted, when
tonnage was so scarce, and it is still a serious matter,
with a world-shortage of food-supplies and the de-
mands for economy in the shipping world. The
price of petroleum in the British Isles might have
been considerably reduced if there had been no
Basra Bar. It is estimated that the removal of
the difficulties created by this deposit of mud would
mean a gain equivalent to 16 per cent, of the cargo
boats and 9 per cent, of the oil-tank steamers that
proceed to and from the oil refinery of Abadan.
British engineers have begun to tackle the
problems of the Basra Bar. The whole matter has
been thoroughly investigated by more than one
expert, and they declare that the task of adequately
dredging the Bar will not be a very lengthy process
nor a specially expensive one. The bottom is soft,
there are apparently no rocks, the current of the
river is swift, and the banks can be suitably built up.
When this mud deposit is scientifically dealt with
and brought under control, it is possible that
another Port Said may arise at the mouth of the
great river, somewhere near the entrance to the
Basra is the chief port for Mesopotamia, but it is
situated about 70 miles from the Persian Gulf, on
the right bank of the Shat 1 Arab. The Euphrates,
the Tigris, and the Karun rivers empty themselves
THE BASRA BAR 97
into this magnificent waterway, which is about
120 miles in length, from 30 to 60 feet deep, and
averages about 1000 yards in width.
The German engineers who surveyed the Baghdad
Railway sought for a terminus on the shores of the
Gulf beyond the Bar, as they contemplated using
their great Hamburg-American liners and antici-
pated the eventual establishment of a naval base.
For such a purpose Basra was deemed unsuitable,
and in 1899 a German cruiser began to investigate
the Persian Gulf, assisted by a mysterious party
of German scientists who suddenly appeared at
Bunder Abbas. In 1906 a regular service of
steamers was started by the Hamburg-American
Steamship Company, and the first steamer, gaily
bedecked with bunting, entered the Gulf ports
with its band playing the inevitable " Deutschland
In spite of the champagne dinners offered free
of charge to the Arab chiefs, the native officials, and
all their friends, Germany failed to secure a footing
on the shores of the Persian Gulf, and seven miles of
mud remained as the most serious obstacle to the
completion of her railway schemes.
At the outbreak of war the famous Force D
started from Bahrain and crossed the Bar on the 7th
of November 19 14, fortunately anticipating, by a few
hours only, the Turkish mine-laying steamers, that
were satisfactorily accounted for, or they might
have sealed the entrance to the Shat '1 Arab and
the fate of Mesopotamia.
THE BATTLE OF SHAIBA, I4TH APRIL I915
Whilst travelling through Damascus in the summer
of 1 91 9, I made special inquiries from the Emir
Feisal and his advisers as to the reason why the
Arab revolt took place soon after the fall of Kut
1 Amara. It was the general impression in England
that our failure to relieve Kut was a very serious
blow to our prestige in the East, so we were agree-
ably surprised two months afterwards to learn that
the Shereef of Mecca had thrown in his lot with
the Allies. It appears, however, that the die was
cast long before the retreat from Ctesiphon, and
our earlier successes around Basra sufficed to en-
courage the Arabs to snatch the long-looked-for
opportunity of shaking off the shackles of the Turk.
The second battle of Shaiba has been regarded
as one of the smallest of our little " side shows,"
but it made a very great impression upon the
Arabs, and the news of this " decisive " victory
over the Turks spread like wild-fire through Arabia.
It was the last attempt the Turks made to retake
Basra. During the first battle of Shaiba, on the
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THE BATTLE OF SHAIBA 99
3rd of March 19 15, they had attempted a diversion
with 12,000 troops at Ahwaz, a hundred miles to
the east, but were defeated in both engagements.
They rallied a second time around Shaiba with
15,000 Turkish troops and 10,000 Arabs. So
confident were the Turks and the Germans of
their ability to drive us out of Mesopotamia that
a demonstration took place in Baghdad on the
14th of April. Amid the firing of guns, a vast
crowd with bands and banners marched through
the streets to the German Consulate, where mutual
congratulations took place upon the " recapture
of Basra." Shortly afterwards, however, the
news reached Baghdad that the Turks had been
thoroughly beaten, that the Arabs had turned
upon them in their retreat, and that the Turkish
commander had shot himself in the presence of
all his officers.
A vivid account of this decisive little battle
reached me in a private letter from one of the junior
officers who took part in it. I venture to reproduce
the greater part of it, as it illustrates the character
of those many battles so bravely fought by the men
to whom we owe the redemption of Mesopotamia
and the liberation of Arabia.
" Our long-looked-for scrap has come at last, and
with a vengeance. The fight of 14th April was a
veritable battle, long drawn and lasting seven hours.
We just managed to take the trenches at one locality
in time before dusk set in ; I was afraid at one time
our fighting that day would bring no material
ioo MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
result. I said so at the time to young C, who was
in the fighting-line with me : ten minutes afterwards
the trenches were taken.
" It was really a three days' battle, commencing
with minor operations in and around Shaiba, start-
ing in the morning of the 12th at six o'clock, and
ending up with the battle of Barjisiyeh on the 14th.
" On the evening of the nth news was brought
in that the Turkish army was advancing. We
stood to our trenches and alarm posts all night, and
at daylight the whole of the horizon (west, north-
west, and south) was occupied by the enemy,
extending from Ana's Tomb to Old Basra (vide
map), at a range of 3500 yards.
" Their guns and ours opened fire, and a few of
the enemy approached in one or two places to
within 1000 yards of our defences. In one case
I fired about thirty rounds : though I could not
hit them, my shots went very close, and they
decamped to a safer distance.
" The enemy were entrenching all round, and our
gun-fire was carried on all day. We had ten men
wounded. Maj.-Gen. M. arrived that night from
Basra, and took over command of the troops here.
He has just lately arrived from the Suez Canal
with a brigade. He brought with him the 24th
Punjabis (one of his brigade). His brigade would
have crossed earlier in the day, but General N.
thought they would be cut up by superior numbers
crossing water and mud from Old Basra.
" Luckily this was done, and he crossed over later
THE BATTLE OF SHAIBA 101
in ' bellums ' with the 24th. That night the enemy
came in close and sniped everywhere ; we met them
with fusillades. General M. (a man of action)
grasped the situation at once, and within three
hours sent the 104th Rifles and the Cavalry Brigade,
supported by the 24th and Dorsets, to counter-
attack large numbers of the enemy in this spot
a good few Arabs supported by the guns. The
Cavalry Brigade charged at North Mound. This
made them retire, which they did under shrapnel
fire. The casualties in this brush were, I think, three
officers killed ; total killed and wounded about sixty.
" After this another attack was launched at the
enemy's advance trenches due west of Kiln Post,
at about 2000 yards distant. The two double
companies of the 119th and the whole of the 104th
took part in this. The trenches were not tenaciously
held, and they retired from them when we were
about 500 yards off.
" I counted about forty killed in my D Company.
Next morning General M. decided to go for the
Turkish Army. It was very hot not a breath of
air when we advanced from camp about 10 a.m.
Our numbers scarcely totalled 5000, with two
field batteries, one horse battery, one mountain
battery, and one brigade of cavalry. The infantry
regiments were : Dorsets, Norfolks, 24th Punjabis,
119th (our link), the 120th, noth, and 117th
Mahrattas sappers and miners. The 104th and
48th were left behind to guard our camp.
" It is certain that the Turks fully expected to
102 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
beat us and take Basra : we did not know they had
so many. They laid a cunning plan : they sent troops
forward to attack and draw us on, while they pre-
pared a strong position two miles east of Barjisiyeh
Wood. They had their best troops there ten
Stamboul regiments and in all twenty-four regular
battalions. Reliable authorities have placed the
infantry at 15,000, and Arab horsemen 10,000.
They were armed with Mauser rifles and had a few
guns ; they were plentifully supplied with small-arm
ammunition. They chuckled with glee when they
saw us advancing, and thought they had us com-
pletely, as we were outflanked by superior numbers.
The 10,000 Arab horsemen had assembled about a
mile east of the Watch Tower, and were waiting
like vultures for the time to come in. Truly we
were ' up agin' a big thing.' We were in reserve
at first ; at 1 p.m. No. 1 Company, 119th, and
No. 4 Company reinforced the firing line of the
1 6th Brigade (the Dorsets and the 24th right).
No. 1 Company went on the right of the 24th, and
No. 4 Company on the left of the Dorsets. I am
speaking of the 16th Brigade only now the 18th
I will leave out. At 2 p.m., or thereabouts, this
line had reached within 400 yards of a section of
Turkish trenches. There was a continual hail of
bullets, and things looked uncomfortable. About
this time I was with the three remaining companies
in reserve, L. having gone off previously as escort
to guns. We were almost under the same fire, the
only cover being a slight rise of ground in front.
THE BATTLE OF SHAIBA 103
" Bullets were hitting the ground everywhere ; it
was a marvel we were not all hit, but a few were.
We were then only 400 yards from the firing-line.
At about three o'clock things were looking a bit
critical and ammunition was running short. I
was then ordered to advance with F Company and
reinforce and assume command, as L. had been
wounded (he died later). I arrived safely, some of
my men being hit. I honestly never expected to
reach them without some sort of hit. I was not even
scratched. No. 1 (the Rawat D Company) were
behaving splendidly ; they never flinched and were
as keen as mustard. I was filled with admiration
for them. C. was very pleased to see us : F Company
brought new life and ammunition.
" We continued to blaze away steadily at the
trenches only 400 yards away, a little down the slope
we were practically on the crest. Their trenches
were marvellously well situated. I borrowed a rifle
from a Sepoy and fired about 100 rounds, the Sepoy
handing me charges. At about 4.45 p.m. I said to
C. : 'If we don't take those trenches our endeavours
will not be of any use, and it will mean defeat and
retirement.' At 5 p.m. the enemy seemed to be
wavering, as the 18th Brigade were forcing them
back about 1000 yards on our right. At this
period General M. said the trenches must be taken.
" Suddenly one felt a feeling come down the firing-
line, and before one could realise anything we had
no orders we were cheering and rushing at the
trenches. We, the Dorsets, and the 24th arrived
104 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
about the same time. The Dorsets, of course,
initiated the charge, but it was practically a dead
heat. Half the enemy turned and fled, the other
half surrendered ; we took many prisoners, but
hundreds must have left the trenches before we
advanced. The three companies wanted to carry
on the pursuit, and I had to restrain their ardour.
" By Gad ! I felt relieved. Just did the trick in
time. It was getting dusk, and there were the dead
to be collected and the wounded to be succoured.
Goodness only knows what would have happened
to the wounded if we had not been successful ! It
was a question of valuable minutes of daylight.
" The enemy's camp was in Barjisiyeh Wood,
about 1500 yards to the west of the trenches we
captured. So great was their demoralisation that
they left their camp standing, leaving every mortal
thing they had there food, cooking-pots, etc. The
guns shelled them and their camp unmercifully ;
thousands must have been killed. I heard that
the Arabs, seeing the Turks were not doing very
well, took all their camels, the hired transports, and
cleared off altogether. To-day the Turkish Army
is no more.
" In our attack on the trenches we were not helped
by the artillery till just before we charged. All the
senior gunner ofhcers were hors de combat, and it
was hard to co-operate. They did their work well ;
they must have killed thousands, and to them a
large share of the victory is due, as well as to our
THE BATTLE OF SHAIBA 105
" The 119th and the 120th have made a great
name for themselves. I do not think there are
better native regiments as regards spirit and pluck
in the whole of India. The best of the old Bombay
regiments have added to their good names ; they
never once flinched or got their tails down. The
1 20th lost three officers killed and many wounded.
" We were very lucky, only one officer killed and
one wounded. We lost more native officers, viz.
two killed and three wounded. I think the 120th
lost as much as any regiment we had 22 killed and
about 90 wounded. My pony was wounded twice,
in the shoulder and lower lip ; the former the
vet. says will not, he thinks, be serious the bullet
has gone in.
" Our doctor did gallant things, helping Major L.
out of the firing-line, bandaging him and others
under heavy fire, and carrying him away on his
back, till Major L. fainted and fell off. Young E.
was ordered up with mules, carrying boxes of am-
munition to be taken to the firing-line (there was
little or no cover). Ten mules were either killed,
wounded, or fell ; two muleteers were killed, and
three wounded. E. escaped without a scratch. All
the ammunition reached the firing-line.
" Next morning, 15th April, numbers of Turks
came in and surrendered. We captured one and
a half million rounds of ball in their camp, and much
shell ammunition. There is no doubt the whole
thing was engineered from Constantinople and took
months of preparation, and that they were confident
106 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
of success. We hear that the Arabs in Basra,
before the battle, were getting very insolent and
overbearing in fact, going as far as getting flags
ready for the victorious Turkish Army.
" They heard the news before we did, and imme-
diately commenced salaaming and grovelling. No
doubt Basra was their objective. The heat of that
day was terrific not a breath of air and our
thirst was awful : we got so parched. We did not
get back to our camp till 9 p.m.
" Our casualties, I hear, amounted to over 1100.
The Turkish losses amounted to 6000, including
prisoners. We had actually five companies in
the firing-line, two companies in reserve, and one
doing escort to the guns. The Turks had six of
the latest machine guns from Berlin. They did a
lot of damage. The trench we dashed up to had
none in action, but one was found the next day in
the rear of the trench, and it has been handed over
to us as a trophy."
(l) Courtyard of a native house in KutTAmara (p. 108). (2) The in-
habitants of KutTAmara watching the arrival Of the British steamer
(p. 242). (3) River steamboat " Julnar" that made the last attempt
to relieve the beleaguered garrison in KutTAmara (p. n8) k
THE HEROIC DEFENCE OF KUT
A town unheard of before the war, Kiit 1 Amara
has now become an historic name-place which will
long be remembered as the centre of valiant con-
flicts and the scene of a glorious resistance to the
bitter end by a gallant section of the Army of the
British Empire. The story of the siege of Kut is
an episode in the history of the war which should
make us proud of the men who held on amid suffer-
ing, privation, and death, and by doing so ren-
dered, as we shall show, invaluable aid to the cause
of Great Britain and her Allies.
A comparatively small town of about 6000
inhabitants, Kut is situated on the eastern bank,
at the extremity of a large loop in the Tigris.
Its prosperity chiefly depended upon the river
traffic, for it was the first place at which the British
steamers called on their way from Baghdad to
Basra, and the last stopping-place before Baghdad
on the journey north. The native sailing-boats
that plied between the Euphrates and the Tigris
had to pass through the Shat '1 Hai, which leaves the
io8 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
Tigris near the town of Kut, where they invariably
called. It became, therefore, a centre of retail
trade for the Arab villages, and was more distinctly
Eastern than Basra, Amara, or Baghdad. There
were not many houses in the place suitable for
European habitations ; herein lay the first of the
many drawbacks to the maintenance of a successful
The single-storied and flat-roofed dwellings of the
natives are mostly built of mud and are crowded
together into an irregular mass, through which a
maze-like tangle of narrow streets twist and turn.
These streets are half choked up with refuse and
heaps of filth, and are so narrow that you have to
take refuge in a doorway to allow a laden donkey to
pass ; otherwise the dirty, wet water-skins of the
water-carrier will leave an unpleasant mark on your
Our illustration gives a good idea of the interior
of one of these houses. The poles to the left of
the group of Arabs are fixed in a pyramid of mud
and are placed at the four corners of the bed for
the support of the mosquito netting. The upturned
basket protects the villagers' larder from the pariah
dogs and the cats that prowl about night and day-
The kitchen range, where the food for the family
is cooked, is immediately behind the basket, and
consists of a few bricks plastered with mud, easily
made and quickly repaired. The smoke from the
fireplace has left its mark upon the wall. One of
the chief duties of the women-folk is to see that the
THE HEROIC DEFENCE OF KUT iog
water-jar to the left of the basket is always filled with
drinking-water from the Tigris. The rough wooden
bench to the right of the Arabs is used as a " divan "
by day and a bedstead by night, when the bedding
is brought out from one of the rooms. In front of
the bench is the baby's cradle.
In such surroundings were our men huddled to-
gether during the siege, and the mud houses had to
be used for all purposes by the beleaguered forces of
General Townshend. Some were larger than others,
and a few possessed an upper story ; but they were
all constructed on the same plan, with a series of
rooms surrounding an open courtyard. As a
protection from the great heat of the sun, all the
walls are thick, the rooms dark, and the windows
small. It was into a group of such houses that our
field ambulance was moved and billeted during the
siege. Our sick and wounded were here compara-
tively safe from rifle bullets which came over at
all angles in a continual sheet by day and night
with the most remarkable intensity. Some, of
course, would penetrate doors and windows and
find their billet in some poor fellow's inside.
Naturally, these mud walls provided little or no
protection against shells, which fell occasionally
into all the different hospitals.
A Turkish aviator one day dropped a bomb into
the British General Hospital, which killed twenty-
two patients and wounded many others It would
be unjust to accuse the Turks of firing deliberately
at the hospitals, for in such a small town the hospitals
no MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
were unavoidably near all the legitimate targets ;
and it is satisfactory to note that the Turkish aviator
responsible for bombing the British hospital came
in person to apologise to our senior medical officer
as soon as possible after the surrender.
A very different state of things existed at the
Turkish base in Baghdad, where there are large
numbers of very comfortable buildings which were
at the disposal of the Turks so long as they held the
city, and in which our own wounded were quickly
accommodated after the capture of Baghdad by
General Maude. When our troops entered the
city it was found that the Turks had destroyed all
British property except the fine British Residency,
which had been used as a Turkish hospital while
we were fighting to relieve the garrison at Kut.
But the tide turned at last in our favour, and these
fine buildings, including the Turkish barracks,
provided excellent accommodation for our troops
and wounded when the Turks were driven out and
compelled to find uncomfortable accommodation
in the villages north of Samara, where the houses
are as bad as those in Kut.
There is a very good example in Kut 1 Amara of
the curious way in which the Arabs irrigate their
gardens. The Mesopotamian " cherad " is one of
the most primitive irrigation wheels possible :
propped up on the trunks of date palms, a rope is
carried round a squeaky wooden wheel. At one
end a mule or cow is secured, and at the other end
a leathern bucket, which is let down into the water
THE HEROIC DEFENCE OF KUT in
when the animal comes to the top of an incline, and
is drawn up when the animal descends. The
water is emptied into a channel and flows away to
the gardens. The British steamer which plies up
and down the Tigris is generally lashed to a landing-
stage at Kut '1 Amara by the side of one of these
primitive irrigation wheels. The traveller who
took the photograph relates what happened while
the steamer stayed the night at Kut. The squeak-
ing of the wheel kept him awake, and he asked one
of the officers if he would put a little grease on the
wheel. He kindly did so and the squeaking ceased ;
but the next morning the owner of the " cherad "
came and asked the officer what he had done to
his wheel, for the " cherad " made no noise and the
animals would not work unless the " cherad "
squeaked ; but the officer persuaded him it would
soon be all right and would shortly begin to squeak
as usual. General Townshend asked for vegetable
seeds, and when these were supplied to him by
aeroplanes, these primitive " cherads " were used
for irrigating his vegetable gardens.
It will be remembered that the chief event which
led up to the siege of Kut was the strange result of
the battle of Ctesiphon, near the ruins of the arch
of Chosroes II., within twenty miles of Baghdad.
At the conclusion of the battle, General Townshend
found himself in possession of the field, but his
losses in killed and wounded, added to the absence
of any chance of reinforcement, compelled him to
retire upon Kut.
ii2 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
General Townshend's main army reached Kut
from Ctesiphon on the 2nd of December 1915, having
marched fifty miles in the last thirty-six hours, in
addition to fighting a heavy rearguard action on the
1st of December. The last of the troops arrived in
Kut on 3rd December, and on the following day
the Turks got their guns into position and began
shelling Kut. The British troops were working
feverishly night and day, digging defensive positions,
pits, and trenches, and erecting huge walls of com-
pressed fodder to provide shelter for the field
The wounded had to be accommodated for a time
under a small group of palm trees which was, how-
ever, swept night and day by a hail of bullets and
shells. Many, of course, were killed, and some had
wonderful escapes. While a medical officer was
attending the wounded, a bullet came into his
pocket, perforated his pocket case, and was thus
turned in its course and prevented from inflicting a
serious wound. On the 5th of December the troops
were completely shut off from the outer world, from
which date is counted the hundred and forty-seven
days of this remarkable siege, remarkable amongst
other reasons for the substantial amount of help it
afforded to the Allied cause.
During December, and for the greater part of
January, the garrison struggled for its very exist-
ence against the repeated onslaughts of the enemy.
It not only successfully repelled every attack,
but it occasionally made sorties, capturing both
THE HEROIC DEFENCE OF KUT 113
prisoners and material. It was rumoured (though
some declare the incident occurred at Gallipoli) that
in one of the sorties the men captured an unsavoury
goat and a still more unclean Turk. The following
day, when things were dull, a discussion arose as
to which was worse, the smell of a goat or the smell
of a Turk, and the senior officer volunteered to act
as umpire. The goat was then brought in, where-
upon the umpire fainted; then the Turk was brought
in, whereupon the goat fainted !
On Christmas Eve the relief forces unwittingly
rendered an invaluable service to the hard-pressed
forces of General Townshend. Their cavalry raided
a Turkish stronghold named Ghussab's Fort. They
blew up and burnt the place, carrying away sheep,
cattle, and timber.
On the same day the Turks were making another
desperate effort to enter Kut, and for the first and
only time penetrated the British trenches. After
battering our line with shells, they got a footing in
the north-east bastion. Within a few hours, how-
ever, they were again driven out ; and so, as always
during this prolonged siege, the Turks were com-
pletely repulsed, with losses which were acknow-
ledged to be severe. Christmas Day was therefore
celebrated in fine spirit by both the beleaguered
within and by the relief columns outside Kut. The
camel thorn and caper berries were labelled as holly
and mistletoe and served for decorations. The
singing at church parade was particularly hearty,
and the customary Christmas festivities were
H4 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
kept up with continuous choruses till late in
Imagine, though, the plight of the sick and the
wounded, who were obliged to lie helpless, confined
in a small place within rifle range and shell fire from
every point of the compass, and returning to the
trenches as soon as convalescent without rest or
change. Many a man must have envied his
brothers in Europe who, within a few hours of being
wounded, found themselves in the comfort of some
well-appointed base or home hospital, with every
luxury, beds to lie on, and perhaps an occasional
drive or other form of entertainment during con-
valescence. In Kut, however, for example, on one
afternoon alone the Indian General Hospital had
sixteen shells into it, a condition of affairs which
could hardly conduce to a rapid recovery when
nerves were already shaken by some severe wound.
The men were very patient, and they all lived, on
the whole, a most cheery and hopeful existence,
broken occasionally by waves of depression as each
attempt at relief failed.
Learning to be thankful for small mercies, every-
body was delighted when the aeroplanes that came
over dropped them a few newspapers, medicines
in tabloid form, spare parts and necessaries for guns
and machinery, letters from home, occasionally
money, and later on food ; for in the last few weeks
a regular aerial traffic in supplies was instituted :
a daily procession of aeroplanes brought flour,
dropping sacks containing two or three hundred
THE HEROIC DEFENCE OF KUT 115
pounds at a time from a height of five or six
thousand feet. The bags would naturally burst
when they reached the earth from this great height,
but three or four sacks were used, one inside the
other, so that the precious food in the inner sack
should not be lost.
One of our pilots made a great sensation one day
in the Turkish camp when he looped the loop and
cart-wheeled over Kut, in contempt of their
" Archibalds." Prisoners subsequently told us that
this derisive little bit of bravado greatly impressed
the Turkish troops.
In February the heavy rains and the floods added
to the discomfort of our men. The greater part of the
twenty-five milesof trenches were repeatedly flooded.
It was very cold at night, and the men had no change
of clothes or opportunities for drying what they
had ; and as there was only wet mud to lie in, there
were numerous cases of pneumonia, and even some
of frortbite. The character of the siege, however,
was changed by the later floods, when the river rose
and overflowed its banks. It caused the British
troops to abandon the front line of trenches, but
the floods also completely washed out the Turks
from the whole of their investing lines on the
northern side, compelling them to retire for a
thousand yards and placing an expanse of water
between them and the British lines. The enemy,
therefore, could now no longer worry our forces by
rifle fire and grenades, trench mortars and mines, but
had to confine themselves to artillery bombardment.
n6 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
These same floods, however, considerably ham-
pered the British relief expeditions. It is possible
that the Turks themselves occasionally broke down
the banks of the rivers, just as the Germans did
in France, to impede the advance of our troops ;
but the banks of the Mesopotamian rivers have
been so badly neglected by the Turks that enormous
floods were bound to be of frequent occurrence
without any untoward assistance.
The stocks of food grew less and less, but a large
quantity of grain was discovered in February hidden
in some of the Arab houses a veritable godsend to
hungry men. By the end of February the troops
had eaten all the magnificent bullocks belonging to
the heavy batteries ; the camels also had been
devoured, and a cheery officer solemnly informs us
that the hump under certain circumstances is quite
a delicacy. It has the appearance and flavour of
substantial salt beef.
There were over four thousand horses and mules
in Kiit at the beginning of the siege, and it was
obvious that the garrison could only afford to find
food for those animals which in their turn would be
required to feed the garrison. In this respect the
mules were more accommodating than the horses,
for it was found possible to teach them to become
cannibals. There was no grass in the place, the
hay and straw ran out, so that palm leaves and
the husks of grain formed the chief diet of the
Some millstones were dropped into Kut by the
THE HEROIC DEFENCE OF KUT 117
aeroplanes, and a little flour-mill was ingeniously
set up. As the weary weeks progressed the bread
ration decreased and all luxuries, such as sugar,
cheese, jam, butter, and tea, entirely disappeared.
The monotony of the diet was very trying. Some of
the men shot sparrows, starlings, doves, rooks,
occasionally a seagull ; and once a flight of locusts
was welcomed with delight.
As the men became more and more hungry, they
got weaker and weaker, so that they were scarcely
able to carry their kit. The period of sentry duty
was reduced to one hour each. Scurvy became
very prevalent amongst the Indian troops, for no
vegetables were available except the grasses and
herbs which came up after rain in places where
there had once been cultivation. The leaves
of a small wild convolvulus clover were used as
The last gallant attempt that was made to bring
relief to the garrison, which so nearly met with
success, must rank, in spite of its failure, as one
of the finest and bravest episodes of the whole
war. The large river steamship J ulnar, dismantled
of all unnecessary superstructure, was stacked up
with over two* hundred and seventy tons of pro-
visions. It was manned by a volunteer crew under
the direction of Commander C. Cowley, V.C., who
knew the river remarkably well, as he had been an
officer on board the river steamers for nearly thirty
years. On the 24th of April he started to make a
dash for Kut. The steamer passed through more
n8 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
than twelve miles of the Turkish lines, although fired
at by thousands of rifles and numerous guns, till at
the last bend of the river, within sight and range of
Kut, when almost every man on board the ship had
been either killed or wounded, an unlucky shell
burst upon the bridge. This wounded the last
officer, and a Turko-German device caused the
ship to run aground on the outside of the bend
Treacherous Arab spies had informed the Turks
of the loading up of the J ulnar, so they had
stretched a strong cable across the river, not at
right angles to the banks, but slanting towards a
point where they concentrated troops and artillery.
The bow of the Julnar, instead of snapping the
cable, was suddenly deflected and the ship dashed
on the bank. It was a terrible disappointment to
those who were watching her from the beleaguered
town, when they noticed that the ship ceased to
move, and during the whole of that anxious night
they heard the battle raging round her. When
daylight came, they could see the ill-fated vessel
at the end of the reach, only a few miles away. It
had failed in its effort to bring relief to them, but
the attempt must be recorded as one of the most
heroic deeds done in connection with the expedi-
tions in Mesopotamia. The sad sequel to this
touching story was the report that our brave
Commander was apparently murdered by the
ruthless Turks. After the return of our prisoners,
we learned from their own lips that Commander
Cowley, though wounded, had been captured alive,
THE HEROIC DEFENCE OF KUT 119
that he was immediately separated from his com-
panions and mysteriously disappeared.
The beleaguered garrison was now at the end of
its resources, on account of floods and other natural
obstacles which the relief forces had been unable to
break through. It is remarkable that the chief
resistance took place at Senna-i-yat, which General
Townshend's forces had captured from the Turks
with much fewer men some months before. This
was confessedly the strongest position which the
Turks had prepared in Mesopotamia, and it was un-
doubtedly a brilliant military achievement when
General Townshend's small forces succeeded in
routing the Turks from this strongly fortified
position ; and now it was Senna-i-yat that held up
the relief forces.
Our beleaguered troops had the utmost con-
fidence in their great General, and firmly believed
that, if only he had departed from Kut in an aero-
plane and taken command of the relief forces,
he would certainly have broken the Turkish re-
sistance again at Senna-i-yat and delivered the
General Townshend's army was never actually
defeated, but it was at length compelled to capitu-
late for the simple reason that there was absolutely
nothing further to eat.
It is too readily assumed that General Towns-
hend's rapid advance on Baghdad was a military
blunder, which resulted in an unnecessary sacrifice
of 15,000 men, To those of us who know something
120 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
of Mesopotamia and the situation which faced our
authorities in the Eastern theatre of war, the dash
towards Baghdad appeared to have been the most
triumphant piece of strategy which we had been
privileged to witness since the outbreak of war.
If only our reinforcements had succeeded in
extricating General Townshend's troops, it would
have been acknowledged that the achievements of
his little force were remarkably serviceable to the
Allied cause from many points of view. Even as
it was, however, the garrison rendered excellent
service to the cause, at a time when such help was
most urgently needed.
In the first place, the stand which these troops
made against the Turks at Kut successfully checked
the Turkish advance towards Basra until sufficient
reinforcements arrived in the country to preserve
for Great Britain that enormous stretch of fertile
land which had already been won by the famous
Sixth Division in Mesopotamia. These plains of
Mesopotamia were at once brought under cultiva-
tion, so that they were quickly able to produce
sufficient food for the army, and in due course began
to export a substantial amount of grain.
Secondly, the war revealed to us the tremendous
importance of the step taken by Mr Lloyd George
in June 191 4, when he secured for the Admiralty
the valuable oil-fields of the Anglo-Persian Oil
Company. There has been an ever-increasing
demand for oil, and it wasessential to the satisfactory
prosecution of the war. The Rumanian and the
THE HEROIC DEFENCE OF KUT 121
Russian supplies of oil were cut off, so that the
demands from America became enormous ; and there
are scientific men in the United States who think
America has reached the limit of her productive
power in the matter of petroleum, and will soon need
the whole of her resources for her own requirements.
Her exports in 1916 were nearly 2500 million
gallons. There are 3J million automobiles in the
United States, and the output is increasing at the
rate of 25 per cent, every year. In Canada the
number of motor cars increased from 62,000 in 1914
to more than 110,000 in 1916. The most important
source of our future oil supply, therefore, is situated
in Lower Mesopotamia ; and if the British forces
had been obliged to retreat from Kut to Basra,
it might have been impossible to guard the far-
distant oil-fields and the two hundred miles of
pipe line, which was seriously broken up in some
places by Turkish troops before we captured the
town of Kut 1 Amara.
Thirdly, the detention of the Turkish forces at
Kut gave time for the organisation of the necessary
roads and railways in a roadless country, and without
these it would have been difficult to hold any
portion of Mesopotamia. Equally important was
the respite it gave for the completion of the fleet
of river gunboats that, under the command of
Captain Nunn, so effectually co-operated with
General Maude, and enabled him to make his
successful advance to the city of Baghdad.
Fourthly, the siege of Kut prevented the Turkish
122 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
regular troops from joining the 12,000 Persian
rebels under Prince Reuss. If only the Turks
could have penetrated into Persia, they would have
appeared on the Indian frontier with many thou-
sands of rebel fanatics from Persia and Afghanistan.
This would have necessitated our sending a large
army to India at a time when not a man could be
safely spared from the Western and Eastern fronts.
Townshend's tenacity, however, kept the Turks in
Mesopotamia, while Russian cavalry dispersed the
Persian bands, and thus the Indian frontier was
Fifthly, it is certain also that General Towns-
hend's expedition facilitated the entry of the
Russians into the great Turkish fortress of Erze-
room. A few weeks after the battle of Ctesiphon
I was privileged to examine a broken kettle-drum
which had been taken from the Turks and had
been sent to England by one of Townshend's officers.
The inscription on this kettle-drum, and the ad-
dresses on certain envelopes that were sent with it,
confirmed my conviction that the Kurdish troops
who ought to have been kept on guard against
the Russians' advance in the north had likewise
been hurried down to Baghdad to check the progress
of our rash little army that was threatening the
capital of Mesopotamia. It was not anticipated
that the Russians would move forward in the depth
of winter, and the Germans were mocking us in
their newspapers by pointing out that the invest-
ment of our forces in Kut was a proof of the im-
THE HEROIC DEFENCE OF KUT 123
possibility of the Allies being able to help each
other, since the Russians could not come to save us.
In point of fact, however, it turned out to be
exactly the opposite to what the Germans supposed,
for we were able, by a successful operation, to help
our Russian allies ; and whilst our enemies were
attracted to Kut, the Russians, behind the backs
of the Kurds, commenced to scale the snow-clad
mountains of Armenia, and eventually sprang a
surprise upon the depleted forces of the best
natural stronghold of Asiatic Turkey.
In addition to all this, the expedition deflected the
greater part of an enormous army that was preparing
for a second attack upon Egypt, for Townshend's
advance compelled the Turks to give up their ex-
pedition against Egypt in order to save Baghdad.
The holding of this ancient capital of Mesopotamia
was vital to the prestige of the Turks amongst the
Arabs and Persians, hence their decision to post-
pone the capture of Cairo ! It meant, however, that
Townshend's army was suddenly confronted with
enormous forces, which necessitated his retirement
on Kut ; but he had saved the Suez Canal and
delivered our Empire from a serious menace to its
most vital artery of communications.
There are two significant paragraphs in the
report of the Mesopotamian Commission which
reveal the influence upon the Kut Expedition
exerted by one who became " the best known and
most universally popular man of any race or
creed in Mesopotamia,"
124 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
In paragraph i, page 20, we are told : " On
23rd November 1914, the day after Basra was
occupied by General Barrett's forces, Sir Percy
Cox, the Indian Government's Political Representa-
tive in Mesopotamia, telegraphed to the Viceroy :
' With General Officer Commanding, I have been
studying topographical details bearing on an ad-
vance to Baghdad in case such an advance should
be decided on,' and he proceeded to outline a
reasoned proposal for an advance on Baghdad."
From this it appears that as early as November
1 914 the proposal for an advance on Baghdad
came originally from Sir Percy Cox, who had
studied the situation with the General Officer
Commanding. I have met officers from Mesopo-
tamia who applaud Sir John Nixon's endorsement
of this early proposal, and point out the wisdom of
his surmise that the difficulty of fighting our way
through a Turkish army entrenched above Kut
might be more serious and costly than a rapid
advance to Baghdad upon the heels of a Turkish
army in flight. An advance on Baghdad a few
months earlier might have given to General Towns-
hend's army the most dramatic victory of the war.
The other paragraph (No. 7, on page 32) tells us
that " the Kut disaster might have been averted
for a long time if the Arab population, about 6000,
had been expelled before the investment began.
Sir Percy Cox was averse to such a measure, as he
was unwilling to hand them over to the tender
mercies of the Turks and hostile Arabs, but their
THE HEROIC DEFENCE OF KUT 125
retention undoubtedly added to the difficulties of
This humane consideration for the Arabs has
evidently not been in vain, for the one man
mentioned, in terms of affection and regard, by
practically all the inhabitants as a suitable ad-
ministrator for Mesopotamia was Sir Percy Cox,
the wise, the just, the beloved " Cokkos."
The fortitude of General Townshend's brave
troops has now been amply rewarded, for the fall
of Baghdad shattered Turkish prestige ; and the
glorious results that succeeded the unfortunate
sacrifice of our brave army might have been
impossible but for the long detention of the Turkish
forces at the siege of Kut 1 Amara.
A few other facts connected with this remarkable
story are worth remembering. General Towns-
hend's army was at that time the largest British
force which had ever surrendered to our enemies,
and the nation to which it surrendered was the
most disreputable of all our foes. Without the
aid of the Germans and the facilities of the Baghdad
Railway, the Turks would have been unable to resist
even Townshend's little army at a distance so
remote from their capital and base of supplies.
Another interesting fact is that the General who
surrendered to the Turks was the very man to
whom the Turks made a full, complete, and un-
conditional surrender. From the island of Principo
he tried three times to make his escape, and then,
at great risk to his personal safety, he did his utmost
126 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
to bring about the downfall of Enver Pasha's govern-
ment. On the fall of Enver Pasha the new ministers
sent for him to help them. His conditions were that
he must be a free man at once, and that the Turks must
immediately open the Dardanelles. Half an hour
afterwards he left the Sublime Porte with a document
in his pocket securing the opening of the Dardanelles,
the closing of the Bosphorus to the Black Sea fleet,
and the immediate release of all our prisoners of war.
The report of the Mesopotamian Commission
revealed the awful conditions under which our brave
men fought and suffered in the first critical months
of that strenuous campaign. The army that was
never defeated was ordered to advance on Baghdad
in spite of Townshend's protests. In a desperate
battle he routed the Turkish army at Ctesiphon ;
then, weary as they were, his well-disciplined veter-
ans retreated ninety miles with the reinforced Turks
at their heels. Not a single man nor a single gun
was lost, neither was a single wounded soldier left
behind ; and in that wonderful retreat over a water-
less desert these war-worn heroes turned round and
wiped out the Turkish advance guard of 10,000 men.
Townshend might have fought his way out of
Kut with smaller losses than the surrender entailed,
for he wired to the Commander-in-Chief : "I must
be relieved in a month. If not, I won't stay here."
The Commander-in-Chief guaranteed to relieve
him in a month, but unfortunately failed ; so
Townshend stayed at Kut and thereby saved the
whole of Mesopotamia.
THE HEROIC DEFENCE OF KUT 127
Townshend's last message from his chief was an
order to surrender, when he received a wireless : " I
cannot relieve you ; make the best terms you can."
The remnant of his " contemptible " little army
the heroes of Shaiba, Basra, Kut, and Ctesiphon
reached home without a welcome or a cheer. They
were broken in body by three long years of Turkish
tyranny, and they may well be broken in heart at the
amazing fact that the " gentle Turk " to-day receives
more honour and praise from British lips than our
valorous sons who saved us from a Turkish triumph.
Soon after the signing of the Armistice, I passed
through the great Baghcha Tunnel on the Baghdad
Railway, where our men were forced to labour under
terrible conditions of hardship and cruelty. I secured
a photograph of the cemetery where so many of
our men are buried ; and the following poem, which
was written by one of the prisoners at Kustamuni,
appeared in The Near East on 27th December 1918.
A Song of the Dead Men of Kut
The Jews they toiled for Pharaoh,
And groaned beneath his rod,
For Pharaoh's hand was heavy
Till the people called on God ;
And God showed signs and wonders
To set His chosen free,
And broke the rod of Pharaoh,
And smote the land of Pharaoh,
And slew with plagues his first-born,
His armies with the sea.
128 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
Five to our one, you fled from us on many a stricken
We fought you all the sweltering seasons through ;
And when you hemmed us in at last and we were forced to
We struck our flag to Hunger, not to you.
You lied to us with courteous speech, and we believed you
To learn too soon your honour's little worth.
To-day but few are left alive to tell the tale to men,
But our blood cries out against you from the earth.
Famished and spent, across the waste, beast-like you drove
And clubbed to death the stragglers by the way ;
Our sick men in the lazar huts you left to die alone,
And you robbed the very dying as they lay.
Naked and starved we built your roads and tunnelled
through your hills,
And you flogged us when we fainted at our work.
Fevered beneath the sun we toiled, racked with the winter
Till death released us, kindlier than the Turk.
The wastes wherethrough you herded us, the barren ways
When the weak fell out to die beside the track,
The remnants of your armies shall be hunted through the
With the swords of our avengers at their back.
Your dole of bread shall fail you then, and thirst shall thin
your ranks ;
You shall faint beneath the burden of the suns,
And the carrion-scented Arabs shall be hovering on your
To snatch the dwindling salvage of our guns.
THE HEROIC DEFENCE OF KUT 129
The kin of us you murdered shall be masters of your lands,
They shall batter down the bulwarks of your trust ;
The city of your sultans shall be wrested from your hands,
Your glory shall be trampled in the dust.
And the tunnels that we drove for you, the roads that we
Shall be highways for the armies of your foe ;
We shall mock you from our graves, that in what we did as
We helped, we too, to work your overthrow.
Heartbroken and forsaken,
Our Calvary we trod,
Yet with our faith unshaken
We turned from you to God ;
And God has greatly taught us
To count our losses gain,
Since we who fought for England,
Here, too, took thought for England,
In bondage wrought for England,
And have not died in vain.
THE ANCIENT MONUMENTS OF MESOPOTAMIA
One of the most interesting and most valuable
features of Mesopotamia is its abundance of archaeo-
logical treasures. The whole surface of the country
is thickly covered with ruined temples, towers, and
palaces, with extensive mounds and hidden cities
of great antiquity, with innumerable smaller ruins
of genuine historical value, with traces of great
canals and reservoirs, with fragments of statuary
and works of art that should make these lands of
special educational value to the whole civilised
Egypt was brought from bankruptcy to prosperity
quite as much on account of its attractions for
tourists as by reason of its commercial enterprises.
In like manner, most of the wealth of modern
Palestine has been acquired from its visitors and
pilgrims, who gathered from the ends of the earth
to get a brief glimpse of its sacred sites. There is
every prospect now that Mesopotamia will become
more popular even than Egypt, for it is being made
accessible to the Western world, and already it
ANCIENT MONUMENTS 131
is safer than heretofore for the pilgrims from the
East. Egypt is too much westernised to be any
longer the ideal rendezvous for East and West;
but the tourist who wishes to touch the fringe of
the East should go henceforth to the bazaars of
Mesopotamia, visit the Bedouin at Babylon, see the
Kurds in their precipitous mountains, the Yezidees,
the Eastern Christians, and the Sabeans in their
native haunts ; watch the boatmen of the Tigris, the
Arab merchants of Basra, or the pilgrims that come
from Persia and Samarkand. In a land that teems
with historical treasures, the traveller can see so
many different phases of Eastern life, so many
features of the present as well as the past, that he
cannot fail to be thrilled by what cannot be witnessed
in any other part of the globe.
Many ancient monuments have been carried off
to the museums of Europe and America, but there
is work enough in the country to occupy the atten-
tion of archaeologists for at least another century.
The ancient sites will no doubt henceforth be most
carefully guarded, and a museum at Baghdad could
easily be made as interesting as the famous museum
at Cairo. It would be possible also to procure
models and plaster casts of the more famous
antiquities already removed, and a restoration of
some notable specimens of Assyrian art and archi-
tecture would make Babylon and Nineveh more
attractive to visitors than the ruins and relics of
It is reasonable to assume that the Baghdad
132 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
Railway will be completed, and suitable carriage
roads made to all the most interesting places,
within the next few years. We shall then be able
to reach Constantinople by the Orient Express, and
arrive at the banks of the Euphrates from London
in five or six days.
Jerablus is the station for the extensive ruins of
Carchemish, once the chief city of the Hittites, the
masters of Syria from noo to 850 B.C. The ruins
of an important Roman city named Europus over-
lap the remains of two distinct Hittite cities.
Here, on the threshold of Mesopotamia, we make
our first acquaintance with Babylonia. The Hittite
art, beautifully depicted upon the magnificent
monuments exposed to view by British archaeo-
logists, was borrowed from Babylon, and the great
goddess of Carchemish was the Babylonian Ishtar.
Some of the well-preserved Hittite figures are
depicted with belts and sashes of exactly the same
shape and style as those worn to-day by the gentry
of Baghdad, and the interior of a Hittite shrine
bears a remarkable resemblance to the ordering
of the Jewish temple at Jerusalem. Carchemish
alone is worth all the trouble of a journey from
London, though it offers but a foretaste of the
pleasures that await a visitor to Babylonia. We
cross the great " Flood " by the magnificent bridge
of ten spans, and proceed on the Baghdad Railway
to Nisibin, Ras 1 Ain, and Mosul.
Nisibin is famous in ecclesiastical history, and for
two centuries was a frontier fortress of Roman
ANCIENT MONUMENTS 133
civilisation, until Jovian built Dara about 16 miles
away, where the ruins that can be seen of this
Roman outpost cover a very considerable area.
Nisibin is well situated on the edge of the plain, at
the foot of the mountains. It was a paradise till
the days of Selim the Grim, and an important
centre of trade, as it formed a junction for most of
the main roads from Europe to Asia. There are
300 springs at Ras 1 Ain, and the source of the
Khabur river. A fortified city was built here by
Theodosius in a.d. 380, but its ruins and those of
Nisibin are not the only interesting places on the
way to Nineveh, for the whole country from the
Euphrates to the Khabur is full of mounds, ruins,
and historical sites that are as yet hardly accessible
to the average European traveller.
The ruins of Nineveh are situated on the eastern
bank of the Tigris, opposite the modern town of
Mosul. The two mounds of Kuyunjik and Neby
Yunis represent the original city, which was sur-
rounded by a wall to a depth of two miles from the
river and four miles in length on its outer boundary.
The Mosul bridge was largely constructed of stones
extracted from the remains of these ancient walls.
One of the most important discoveries at Kuyunjik
was the library of Asshur-banipal. With amazing
patience the tablets were deciphered by George
Smith, who revealed to the world the Chaldean
stories of the Creation, the Fall, and the Flood.
There is also an account of Sargon's expedition
against Ashdod (Isa. xx. 1), and a fine slab with
134 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
pictures and inscriptions recording Sennacherib's
review of the spoils of Lachish (2 Kings xviii., etc.).
The Kuyunjik mound contains the remains of two
enormous palaces, one belonging to Sennacherib,
whose will was found amongst the many clay docu-
ments, and the other palace belonging to his
grandson Asshur-banipal (668-626 B.C.).
There are many voluminous records of the
enormous number of marble sculptures, bas-reliefs,
cylinders, and other treasures unearthed by archae-
ologists at Kuyunjik ; but the greater part of
Nineveh remains to be uncovered, and many inter-
esting days could be spent at these extensive mounds.
On the Neby Yunis mound there stand a large
mosque and a Moslem village ; consequently per-
mission was never granted to excavate this sacred
eminence. One summer, however, Sir Henry
Layard made friends with the owner of a large house
and persuaded him to excavate a cool room below
the courtyard, in which Layard might sleep during
the heat of the day. He paid the man handsomely
for the hire of the room, and acquired all the anti-
quities that were brought to light by the excavation.
In 1850 the Turkish governor of Mosul discovered
at Neby Yunis two large winged bulls and an
important marble slab. The slab disappeared from
the Constantinople Museum in 1874, and was re-
discovered some years later in the British Isles.
The mounds of Nimrood, situated a few miles
south of Kuyunjik, are still more extensive, and
revealed some of the choicest Assyrian monuments
ANCIENT MONUMENTS 135
found in Mesopotamia, such as the black marble
obelisk, 7 feet high, of Shalmaneser II. (860-825 B.C.),
on which is recorded the king's reception of tribute
from Jehu the son of Omri (1 Kings xix. 16 and
2 Kings ix. 10). From this Biblical city of Calah
a magnificent marble bull and a winged lion, with
some beautiful bas-reliefs, were sent by Layard to
London, while large numbers of exquisite sculptures
were reburied in the mounds. Some of the monu-
ments of marble, glass, and alabaster bear the
names of Sargon II. (722-705 B.C.), Asshur-nasirapal
(885-860 B.C.), Shalmaneser II., and Ezarhaddon
(681-668 B.C.) (2 Kings xix. 27).
Khorsabad is another ruined city as wonderful
as Nimrood. It is situated 14 miles north-east of
Mosul, on the left bank of the river Khorsar, which
flows through Nineveh into the Tigris. It contains
the ruined city of Dur-Sharrukeen or Sargon's Castle,
founded by Sargon II., the father of Sennacherib,
about 720 B.C., in which some beautiful wall decora-
tions in blue and white enamelled tiles, sculptured
halls, and very fine gates were discovered by the
French excavators. An inscribed box which served
as a corner-stone contained seven tablets in gold,
silver, copper, lead, lapis lazuli, magnesite, and
limestone, with the history of the buildings inscribed
in identical cuneiform characters upon each one of
them. This ruined city of Khorsabad covers over
721 acres, and its discovery by Botta in 1843
aroused the people of Europe to the importance of
thoroughly excavating the mounds of Mesopotamia.
136 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
Balawat is another ancient site, 15 miles east of
Mosul, which has never been properly excavated,
because it is being used as a burial-ground. Rassam,
however, recovered some beautiful bronze panels
which once covered the cedar gates of a large
palace erected by Shalmaneser II.
The Bavian monuments and the rock sculptures
of Gunduk, though less accessible, are worth visiting.
The picture rocks of Bavian represent King Sen-
nacherib making an offering to the goddess Ishtar ;
the inscription records the destruction of Babylon,
which had rebelled against him and which he rased
to the ground. There is one huge square panel
with four gigantic figures, and a dozen smaller panels
higher up on the rocks. Bavian is situated near
the banks of the Gomel, 5 miles from Ain Sufni.
Here were the principal quarries for Nineveh, where
the monuments were first sculptured, then cut away
from the rock, lowered to the river-side on rollers,
and floated down the river on rafts of inflated sheep-
skins. The caves behind the panels were evidently
used by hermits a thousand years after the fall of
To the west of Mosul there are ancient ruins all
along the road to the Yezidee stronghold of Jebel
Sinjar, a most interesting place to visit when a
motor road is made.
The river Tharthar flows from Sinjar to the best-
preserved ruins I have seen in Mesopotamia.
Hatra is a well-built circular city lying in the
midst of extensive pasture lands, far removed from
ANCIENT MONUMENTS 137
the well - frequented roads. It has been called
the " Home of Architecture," for it supplied the
Sassanians with builders, architects, and models
for the sumptuous palaces that displayed their
opulence and power. Hatra needs little excavating,
for, unlike the older Assyrian remains, it is not
covered with debris, and it looks like a glorious city
that has recently been ruined by an earthquake.
Numerous towers adorn the fine stone walls ; a
magnificent palace stands erect in the midst of the
city, which is solidly constructed of square stones,
and many of the buildings are elaborately sculptured
with figures and ornaments. It was probably
founded about the first century of the Christian era,
and was unsuccessfully besieged by both Trajan
and Severus. The waters of the Tharthar are
unpleasantly brackish, but the cultured Arabs of
Hatra must have had some better water supply, for
I was particularly attracted by the remarkably
deep wells, beautifully built, broadening out at the
base, and now, of course, half filled with debris.
Hatra is not a place for ancient archaeological
treasures, but it may become a popular resort for
tourists ; and the fascinating encampments of the
Shammar and other genuine Arab tribes are better
seen on the way to Hatra than in any other part
The nearest Assyrian ruin to Hatra is found at
Kalah Sharghat, on the west bank of the Tigris,
where the excavations have brought to light Asshur,
the mother of cities, the oldest capital of Assyria.
138 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
The main line of the Baghdad Railway from
Mosul will pass through or near a number of interest-
ing villages containing Assyrian remains, until it
reaches the battlefield of Gaugamela, where
Alexander the Great, on the ist of October 331 B.C.,
routed the armies of Darius and thereby obtained
the dominion of all Asia. The modern Erbil or
Arbela, 20 miles away, is situated on and around
a large artificial mound about 150 feet high. This
has never been excavated, as the Turks would brook
no disturbance of their dignity and power, exempli-
fied by the dirty castle that crowns the summit of
The furious torrent of the Lower Zab is crossed
at Alton Kupri, called the Golden Bridge, from the
annual value of the toll collected by the Turks from
all unfortunate travellers. The tourist of the future
will forgo the pleasure of climbing the steep stone
structure of the Ottomans, and over an ordinary
British railway bridge will pass on to Kerkuk, where
the most interesting sight can only be seen with a
candle or torch.
Just outside this Kurdish town of Kerkuk are
a large hill and a small Christian cemetery. The
sexton will guide a visitor through a small door,
and, to his amazement, he will be able to wander
through a labyrinth of catacombs, cells, and early
Christian churches, where the Christians hid them-
selves from the fury of the villainous Tamerlane.
The ancient Nahrwan Canal is crossed on the
way to Baghdad, and on the banks of the Tigris are
ANCIENT MONUMENTS 139
the two important towns of Tikrit and Samarra.
The former contains some ancient ruins, and was
especially notable as the see of a Christian bishop ;
but the latter is of great historical interest, in addi-
tion to its sanctity as an important Moslem shrine.
A great spiral tower is to be seen amongst the ruins
of Eski Baghdad, for the son of Haroun 1 Raschid
made Samarra his capital. A recent surveyor,
Colonel Beazeley, R.E., declares that the ruins of
an elaborate irrigation system have been revealed,
and that the ancient city was 20 miles in length,
2$ miles in width, and probably contained as many
as four million people.
The remains of the once powerful Babylonian
city of Opis, associated with the campaigns of
Alexander the Great and Xenophon, are hidden
beneath the enormous Tel Manjur mounds in a
great bend of the Tigris, half way between Baghdad
and Samarra. The river formerly flowed to the
west of Opis, which accounts for the tradition that
places the city on the left bank of the Tigris.
The great Nahrwan Canal can be traced from the
Tigris north of Samarra to the Diala, and thence
to the Tigris again at Kut 1 Amara. The greatest
canal of Babylonia was the Shat 1 Nil, which ran
from the north of Babylon through Niffer to the
Shat 1 Hai near Nasiriyeh. It is identified with
the '* river Chebar in the land of the Chaldeans,"
that for many centuries brought life and fertility to
the plains of Lower Mesopotamia.
The " City of the Khalifs " is one of the most
140 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
interesting of Eastern cities, but it contains very
few monuments of archaeological interest. There are
many mounds around Baghdad, and traces of the
city and palaces of Haroun 1 Raschid. Some of the
older houses on the western side were built almost
entirely of Nebuchadnezzar's bricks, evidently
brought from Babylon. Whilst I was resident in
the city a large earthenware jar, full of gold cufic
coins, was dislodged by the oar of a boatman on
the western bank of the Tigris.
Near the Christian quarter there is a neglected
ancient minaret erected in 1235 by the Khalif
Mustansir, whose ruined college on the banks of the
Tigris was transformed into the disorderly Turkish
Custom House. On the western outskirts of the
city is the tomb of Sitt-Zobeida, the wife of Haroun
1 Raschid, and near by the well-preserved tomb of
Sheikh Maaruf '1 Kerkhi, dating from a.d. 12 15.
Eighteen miles south of Baghdad is the stately
arch of Ctesiphon, the remains of the reception
hall of the palace of Chosroes II. (a.d. 591-628),
who was the last and the most remarkable monarch
of the Persian Sassanian dynasty. The arch is 120
feet high, 164 feet long, and 82 feet wide ; thousands
of British troops were able to take shelter under
its shadow from the heat of the sun when our
forces were operating towards Baghdad.
Aker Koof is the most curious of all the ruins
in the country. It is situated about 18 miles
west of Baghdad, near the ancient highroad to
Felujah, and was mistaken for the Tower of Babel
ANCIENT MONUMENTS 141
by English travellers in Elizabethan times. It
was built by King Kurigalzu, who reigned in
Babylonia about the time that Moses was leading
the Children of Israel out of Egypt, and it represents
the remains of a stage tower erected probably for
the combined purpose of religious devotion and
astronomical observation. The kernel of the original
tower is a little over 100 feet high, and consists of
sun-dried bricks with layers of reed matting about
3 feet apart placed between every fifth or seventh
layer of bricks. The well-made kiln-burnt bricks
that formed the outer covering have disappeared,
and fragments only are to be found at the foot of
the tower. The ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia
were far more cultured than the modern Arabs and
Turks. They were evidently well skilled in the
observation of the starry heavens, for polished lenses
have been discovered, and inscriptions that indicate
their acquaintance with the four moons of Jupiter.
They named the twelve signs of the Zodiac, divided
the equatorial into 360 degrees, with further divisions
of 60 minutes and 60 seconds, and they gave us the
system of dividing the days as marked on our
Near Felujah, at the Euphrates end of the great
Isa Canal, which ran through the Aker Koof depres-
sion to the Tigris, there are the immense mounds
of Sifaira and Ambar, flourishing cities, no doubt,
when Felujah was for centuries the " Charing
Cross " of the world's highways.
North-west of Sifaira, on the banks of the
142 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
Euphrates, and due east of Damascus, is the well-
known town of H1t, the Is, the Ahava, and the
Ihi-da-Kira of earlier days, whence came the
asphalt and the great paving-stones for Nebuchad-
nezzar's processional road at Babylon. The quarries
further north, at Anah, also produce a fine hard
limestone exactly similar to the immense inscribed
flags of Babel Street. There are some interesting
ruins on the way to Deir-Zor, at Jabriyeh, SAli-
hiyeh, and especially at Rahabah ; while north of
Deir are Zenobia's ruins on the way to Sabkha,
where British Mesopotamia touches the Shereefian
South of Felujah the modern tourists' road to
Babylon will certainly pass near the interesting
mounds of Abu Habba, situated about four miles
from the Euphrates and the same distance north
of Mahmoudiyeh. They were discovered in 1881
by Rassam, and found to contain the ruins of
Sippara (850 B.C.). In addition to 60,000 tablets,
Rassam brought to light the famous temple of
Shamash (the sun-god), and two large barrel
cylinders of Nabonidos which proved to be of the
utmost historical importance. Nabonidos was a
Babylonian archaeologist to whom historians are
indebted for much chronological data. On these
barrel cylinders he tells us that before he rebuilt
the temple of Shamash his workmen were digging
out the foundations of the earlier temple, and
discovered the still olcfer foundation stone of Naram-
Sin, the son of Sargon I., " which for 3200 years
ANCIENT MONUMENTS 143
no previous king had ever seen." It was these
cylinders that conveyed to us the startling informa-
tion that Naram-Sin reigned in Babylon about
3750 B.C. These extensive ruins have proved to
be an inexhaustible mine for illicit Arab excavators,
and they are the only mounds in Babylonia that
were investigated by the Turks. In 1894 a small
sum of money was provided by the Sultan Abd'l
Hamid, and the work continued for two months
under Bedry Bey, assisted by the French Assyri-
ologist, Father Sheil.
In the neighbourhood of Mahmoudiyeh there are
numerous Babylonian mounds ; nearer to Babylon
are the enormous ruins of Tel-Ibrahim ; exten-
sive ruins also at El Karaina, 4 miles north of
Babil ; groups of mounds also at Dilhim, 10 miles
south of Hillah ; and a great red pyramid mound
at El Ohaimir, 8 miles east of the Euphrates,
found to contain the ruins of ancient Kish, which
flourished in the days of Hammurabi.
Babylon is the gem of all the ancient monuments
in Mesopotamia. It is impossible to describe in a
few words the results of half a century's excavations
and research. The many bulky volumes that have
been published for the edification of specialists
may some day be condensed into a portable guide
for the information of ordinary travellers and
tourists. Five miles north of Hillah, the ruins of
Babylon begin with the great mound of Babil,
known to the Arabs as Mujellibeh, the site of a
fortress and one of Nebuchadnezzar's palaces. A
144 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
mile to the south is another set of smaller mounds
called El-Kasr, where are the ruins of Nebuchad-
nezzar's chief palace and the great processional
road which leads to the Ishtar gate of Marduk's
temple. The throne room of the palace measures
170 feet by 60 feet, and the walls of the road to
the temple were exquisitely adorned with enamelled
tiles. At the excavated palace the traveller may
now survey the very room in which Alexander
the Great died. Possibly here also, or, as some
suppose, at Tel-Amran, were the so-called "Hanging
Gardens," that ranked amongst the seven wonders
of the world, chiefly because they were laid out upon
the roofs of an occupied building. At different
stages in the great palace the vaulted roofs appar-
ently supported an unusually deep layer of earth,
in which the trees were planted. The air which
passed through the well-watered vegetation no
doubt became delightfully cool, and possibly the
palace officials transacted their business in the cool
chambers during the heat of the summer.
It is a summer custom in Baghdad to hang a
wide-meshed trellis-work stuffed with camel thorn
over the doors and windows of all offices and living-
rooms. This is constantly sprinkled with water,
and the hot, dry wind which blows through the
camel thorn causes rapid evaporation and appreci-
ably cools the rooms, already somewhat darkened
by the trellis- work, so that they are doubly protected
from the intense glare and heat of a summer day
ANCIENT MONUMENTS 145
South of the Kasr is Tel-Amran, containing the
temple of Esagila. Close by Amran there lies the
rectangular ruin of E-temen-an-ki, the remains of
a great ziggurat, believed to be the most probable
site of the " Tower of Babel." Nabopolasar lays
stress upon the height of this tower, which he
restored and made " its foundations lie firm on
the bosom of the underworld, while its top stretched
heavenward." Nebuchadnezzar also records his
attempt to " raise up the top of E-temen-an-ki that
it may rival heaven." Alexander the Great laid it
in ruins. Extensive remains of the city walls can be
traced from the Shat 1 Nil near Babil in the north to
the village of Jumjumah (Golgotha) in the south.
Nine miles south of Hillah are the imposing ruins
of Birs Nimrood, for a long time erroneously
identified with the " Tower of Babel." It was
built by Nebuchadnezzar as the temple of the Seven
Spheres of Heaven and Earth, in the midst of the
city of Borsippa, and the ruined wall on the top of the
mound rises to a height of 153 feet from the level of the
plain. The temple was dedicated to the god Nebo,
" the Guardian of Heaven and Earth," and its seven
stages were differently coloured. The lowest stage was
black and covered with bitumen, representing Saturn.
The 2nd stage was orange representing Jupiter.
f red ,
, whitish yellow ,
, blue ,
, silver-plated ,
146 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
The sixth stage was artificially vitrified to obtain
a blue tint, and the imperishable dark blue slag
used so near the summit has helped to preserve
this magnificent building for so many centuries.
Almost as important as Babylon are the great
mounds of Niffer (the Calneh of Gen. x. 10),
which lie on the edge of the Affej marshes, and have
been so admirably excavated in recent years by
the University of Pennsylvania. Layard thought
nothing was to be found here, but fifty years later
Professor Hilprecht reported that more than 60,000
cuneiform tablets had been excavated, a temple
with its library had been located, and a large pre-
Sargon gate had been discovered below the level
of the desert.
Mesopotamia has two distinct divisions. The
southern portion, below the Median Wall, was known
as Sumir, or the land of Shinar, and the northern
portion was known as Accad. The traveller in the
land of Shinar will meet with masses of extensive
ruins on every hand. The smaller mounds are too
numerous to mention.
The largest set of ruins in the land of Shinar
are to be found about 60 miles from Suk-esh-
Shuyukh ; they belong to the period of 2700 B.C.,
and represent the relics of Warka, the Biblical
Erech (Gen. x. 10). A large number of most
interesting coffins were excavated from these
mounds. It was found that they very quickly
crumbled to fragments whilst being exhumed,
until a method was adopted of pasting the coffins
ANCIENT MONUMENTS 147
over with paper as soon as they were brought to
light. They were then extracted whole and sent
intact to the museums of Europe. At Senkere,
not far from Warka, are two mounds which measure
four miles in circumference, containing the remains
of a temple and a stage tower of the Sun-god.
Many of the tablets discovered here were wrapped
in thin clay envelopes ; some triangular ones have
holes at their corners, as if they had been used as
labels and secured to some object. One of the
tablets exhibits two men boxing 4000 years ago.
These mounds contain the ruins of Larsam, the
Ellasar of Gen. xiv. 1, one of the earliest and
most famous of Babylonian cities.
Tello has been called the Pompeii of Babylonian
antiquity. It is situated eight miles north-east of
Shatra and three miles south of the Shat '1 Hai.
It is remarkable for the fine collection of dolerite
sculptures excavated there, for the transformation
of a Babylonian sanctuary into a Parthian palace,
for the number of monuments discovered which
are older than 3750 B.C., and for the 30,000 baked
cuneiform tablets found in layers on shelves, re-
presenting the archives of a temple. One of the
Tello tablets described a certain King Dungi as
the " King of Ur, King of the four quarters of the
world." A Mesopotamian flood might well have
been described by such a king or his historian as
covering the four quarters of the world.
The mound of Mugheir, which can be found
seven miles south-west of Nasiriyeh, covers the
148 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
remains of Ur of the Chaldees (Gen. xi. 28 and
xv. 7). The ruins are estimated to belong to the
period of about 2700 B.C. The name of Belshazzar,
King of Babylon, was found upon one of the exca-
Some particularly interesting records have been
unearthed at Abu Shahrain, better known as the
Eridu (the Blessed City) of ancient history. The
foundations of a temple dedicated to Ea, father
of Merodach, were found here by Mr W. Taylor in
1850. It is stated to have been a seaport 7000
years ago, and the mounds represent the site of
the most ancient city in Chaldea. The ruins were
investigated during the war by Captain Thompson,
with highly important results. Neolithic remains
have been discovered, and the primitive buff pottery
of wheel-turned clay is said to resemble the pottery
found in the last stratum of the ruins of Susa.
This seems to indicate that the two cities were
peopled by men of the same character in pre-
historic times, and subsequent investigation may
lead to more definite opinions about the probable
site of the Garden of Eden.
Under the auspices of the British Museum,
systematic excavations were continued at Eridu
and Ur in 1919 with encouraging results. The
great outer wall of a temple (2400 B.C.) was un-
covered at Ur. It is 38 feet thick, and contains
chambers in the thickness of the wall.
Another prehistoric site was also discovered
by the same excavator, Mr Hall, at Tel-Obeid,
ANCIENT MONUMENTS 149
about four miles west of Ur, where some of the
earliest relics of the Sumerian age (3000 B.C.) have
been brought to light, and life-size heads of lions
made of copper, with eyes, tongues, and teeth of
red, white, and black stone ; clay pillars with
tesselated designs in triangles and squares of red
and black stone and mother-of-pearl set in bitumen.
The British people have had more to do with
excavating the ancient monuments in Mesopotamia
than any other nation, but they were ably supported
by the French, and in more recent years the Germans
and the Americans have done remarkable work by
excavating the mounds in a thoroughly scientific
The East India Company initiated the interest
of the British public in the ruins of Babylon, and
ordered their Resident at Basra to send specimens
of the bricks to London.
The first real explorer of Babylon and Nineveh
was Claudius J. Rich, British Resident for the
East India Company at Baghdad, who died of
cholera at Shiraz in 182 1. He was followed by
such well-known men as Ker Porter, Fraser, Chesney,
Rawlinson, Layard, George Smith, Rassam, and
King. The French began operations at Khorsabad
under Botta in 1842, and at Tello under De Sarzec
The German scholars only began in 1886 to work
at Surghul and El-Hibba, not far from Tello ; but
under Koldewey in 1899 they started upon the
ruins of Babylon, and in a thoroughly efficient
150 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
manner brought to light the greater part of the
city of Nebuchadnezzar (604-561 B.C.).
In 1888 the Americans came to Niffer, where
they courageously worked with remarkable success,
though with occasional interruptions, until the out-
break of war.
The condition of Mesopotamia under the Turkish
regime during the last half-century made the
work of these scientific men extremely difficult
and dangerous. I had the privilege of visiting
most of the excavations, and realised how great
were the trials and disappointments as well as the
triumphs of those whose self-denying labours have
so greatly enriched our knowledge of the past.
When Botta was excavating at Khorsabad he
brought a number of beams at considerable expense,
and used them as supports for the walls of the
excavated buildings. The villagers, with an in-
grained love of pilfering, pillaged the wood, and
the ancient buildings were destroyed. The Turkish
governor believed Botta was searching for gold, so
set watchmen to seize it, and threw Botta's work-
men into prison when it was not forthcoming.
Annoyed at his failure to secure the anticipated
gilded treasures, he closed down the excavations
and reported to Constantinople that Botta was
establishing a military stronghold for the purpose
of taking the country by force of arms and pro-
claiming himself Sultan.
A large part of the antiquities at Khorsabad
with sixty-eight cases of the finest bas-reliefs from
ANCIENT MONUMENTS 151
Asshur-banipal's palace at Kuyunjik, were lost by
the sinking of two rafts in the Tigris. Also all
the collections excavated and purchased by Oppert
at Babylon, including a valuable marble vase of
Naram-Sin (3750 B.C.), were sunk in the Tigris not
far from Kurna, while on their way to Basra.
The American excavators had serious trouble
at Niffer. On one occasion the Arabs set fire to the
encampment, half the horses were burnt to death,
and 1000 dollars fell into the hands of the plunderers.
The excavations were abandoned for a time, though
the workers were fortunately able to save all their
This superficial survey of the ruined monuments
of antiquity to be found in Mesopotamia will
suffice to show that the country is replete with
treasures of peculiar interest and unique value to
travellers and tourists as well as to archaeologists
THE SACRED SHRINES AND RELIGIOUS SECTS
I have heard it stated that in Mesopotamia there
are more sects, more gates to heaven, and more
roads to hell than in the United States of America.
Every Moslem " Mathhab " is represented here,
every variety of Jewish belief, more than a dozen
different Christian sects ; and besides the Sufis and
Babis from Persia, there are the Sabeans and
Yezidees, in whose religious opinions one finds
Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Zoroastrianism,
Gnosticism, Star-worship, and Ornithomancy all
jumbled together in glorious confusion. A pil-
grimage to any of the sacred shrines is a sure pass-
port to Paradise ; none know the nether world
better than the Yezidees, and the Sabean theology
abounds with hells and innumerable demonic rulers.
The Hebrew race derived its origin from Meso-
potamia when Abraham crossed the Euphrates and
settled in the land of Canaan. There are probably
nearly 80,000 Arabic-speaking Jews living to-day
in the towns and villages of the land that is of special
interest to the Jewish race, not only because it is
SHRINES AND RELIGIOUS SECTS 153
their Patriarch's native land, but also on account
of the long years which the Hebrews spent in this
country during the Babylonian captivity. There
are three sacred places constantly visited by Jewish
pilgrims. The most important is Ezra's Tomb,
with its picturesque turquoise dome, situated on
the banks of the Tigris not far from the " Garden
of Eden." The Talmud records a legend that Ezra
was on his way from Jerusalem to the Persian
capital in order to secure a further release of
Hebrew captives when he died at Zamzuma, a
town on the Tigris, where every Jewish pilgrim
devoutly believes he was buried, and not in
Jerusalem, as suggested by Josephus.
Another sacred site of no less sanctity is the
tomb of Joshua the High Priest, situated on the
outskirts of Baghdad. Twenty years ago the
Moslems of the vicinity wrested the tomb from the
Jewish guardians while the Turkish authorities
looked on complacently, until the English manager
of Sir David Sassoon's firm made representations
to our consular authorities and eventually secured
the restoration of the tomb to its rightful owners.
The third important site revered by the Jews of
Mesopotamia is the tomb of Ezekiel, situated on
an inlet from the Hindiah Canal, not far from the
Euphrates and Babylon. By the side of a pictur-
esque village named Kefil there is a little Jewish
colony settled as guardians of the tomb, living
on the friendliest terms with the Moslem villagers,
who regard them, however, with considerable
154 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
contempt. On my last visit to Kefil I was able to
purchase ten eggs for a penny, a fowl for fivepence,
and a brace of partridges for sevenpence.
After the occupation of the " Garden of Eden "
the British forces proceeded beyond Ezra's tomb
to the capture of an important city on the river
Tigris, by the name of Amara. This is now a very
flourishing place, and contains the headquarters
of an interesting sect known as the Sabeans, or
Star-worshippers, whose religious ideas probably
have a Babylonian origin.
There are many small sects of this kind in
different parts of Turkey, such as the Yezidees,
Shabakahs, and Be j wans, near Nineveh, the Kizil-
bashis of Asia Minor, and the secret sects of Syria.
Besides speaking Arabic, which is the common
language of the whole of Mesopotamia, these Star-
worshippers have a household language of their own
that is also the language of their sacred books and
is called Mandaitic. This is very closely allied to
the Syriac spoken by the Christian villagers to the
north of Mosul. They never intermarry with
strangers, and, like the Druzes, they never accept a
proselyte to their faith nor have any permanent
place of worship. They are a peaceful and indus-
trious people, occupied with raising the finest
dairy produce of Mesopotamia, with building
light canoes, and especially are they famous as
silversmiths, working a beautiful inlaid work with
black metal upon silver or gold ornaments. They
possess a remarkably fine physique, and with their
SHRINES AND RELIGIOUS SECTS 155
long dark beards the Sabean men are typical of
what we imagine the ancient patriarchs were like
who came from the country which is now the home
of these Sabeans. It is said that they turn to the
North Star whenever they pray, and that they go
through some form of baptism every Sunday.
Their greatest festival takes place on the last day
of every year, and is known as the Day of Renun-
ciation. They hold a sort of watchnight service
of the eve of the New Year, and present a solemn
sacrifice to the Judge of the Underworld, which
seems to indicate that in earlier times they were
somewhat allied to the Yezidees in the north of
Mesopotamia. Each of these Sabeans possesses
a special white robe with which the Star- worshipper
clothes himself upon emerging from the waters at
their ceremonial baptisms. This garment is care-
fully preserved as a peculiarly sacred one, and is
used at the burial of the owner, who believes that
he will appear in the garment when he comes up
for judgment before the Prince of the Nether World.
At the annual festival on New Year's Eve the
Sabeans erect a mud altar in their temporary tent,
where small cakes are prepared from barley meal
and the oil of sesame seed. The cakes are baked
in the oven by the side of the altar ; a pigeon is slain,
and four drops of its blood are carefully placed
upon each cake, so as to form the sacred Cross.
Then, while their sacred book is being read, the
cakes are carried round to the assembled company
by the principal priests, who place one of these
156 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
cakes in the mouth of each worshipper. The dead
pigeon is then buried behind the altar inside their
temporary tabernacle. This is a sort of annual
communion service with the Sabeans, and always
takes place on the banks of the Tigris near Amara.
The Sabeans possess a mass of sacred literature.
Their chief book is a large volume divided into two
parts ; the reading matter begins at both ends and
finishes in the middle ; that is to say, the reader
can begin at one end of the book, and then when he
reaches the middle he turns the book upside down
and begins at the other end. They believe that
Mohammed was the last of the false prophets, and
they state that at the time of the Abbaside dynasty
there were four hundred centres of Sabean worship
in Mesopotamia. The High Priest of the Sabeans
was imprisoned a few years ago at Basra on a charge
of attempting to foment a rebellion of the Arab
tribes against the Turks.
They gave a very hearty welcome to the British
troops on their arrival at Amara. They were then
kept busy supplying their wares to British officers
and men, who hastened to purchase specimens of
their wonderful silver-work. There is little doubt
that in more peaceful times they will develop into
a flourishing community, and possibly expand once
more into every town and district of Mesopotamia.
Another interesting set of people, allied to the
Sabeans, are the Yezidees or " Devil- worshippers."
They inhabit a number of unkempt villages near
Mosul and in the Sin jar Mountains. They seem
SHRINES AND RELIGIOUS SECTS 157
to belong to a Kurdish stock, and speak Kurdish as
well as Arabic. There are probably some forty
thousand Yezidees in Mesopotamia and six thou-
sand in the Caucasus. Their headquarters are at
Sheikh Adi, a weird place north-east of ancient
Nineveh. They have many excellent character-
istics, though they are profoundly ignorant and
superstitious. They are a sturdy race, hard-
working, brave, peaceful, hospitable, good-
humoured, and always more friendly to Christians
and Jews than to Moslems. The Turks have
frequently treated them very badly, and in 1892
attempted to exterminate them. Omar Pasha, the
Governor of Mosul, invited the chiefs to a dinner
and a conference. While feasting as the guests of
the Governor, a signal was given and the whole
of the seventy chiefs were brutally murdered by
Turkish troops. It is hardly correct to call the
Yezidees " Devil- worshippers," for they all believe
in a great God who created the universe ; but they
pay deference to the " Prince of this World," lest
they should suffer from his vengeance. They avoid
the use of words that begin with the same letter as
Satan's name, and instead of using the common
Arabic words for the devil they speak of him as 4he
" Prince of Darkness," " Lord of the Evening," or
the " Exalted Chief." Many of the Yezidees
practise baptisms ; they make the sign of the cross,
and kiss the threshold of Christian churches.
They adore the rising sun, and kiss the first rays
of light that strike their dwellings. They will not
158 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
blow out a candle with their breath, or spit on fire.
They observe a sacrificial festival allied to the
There is not a single sect amongst the Moslems
whose faith and practice is based solely upon the
Koran, the text of which is supposed to be so
sacred that only the Companions of Mohammed are
considered capable of being commentators upon it.
Therefore the chief work committed to Moslem
theologians is to learn the Holy Book by heart, to
become masters of the traditions and familiar with
the early commentators. It was found necessary
to systematise all the traditions and judgments
given by the Khalifs and Mujtahidin. This brought
about the four systems of jurisprudence founded by
the four Imams : (i) Abu Hanifa, (2) Ibn Malik,
(3) As-Shafi, (4) Ibn Hanbal. These were all re-
garded as Mujtahidin of the highest rank, and the
Sunnis consider that there has been no true
Mujtahid since them. The followers of these four
men represent the four orthodox sects of Islam,
to one or other of which all Moslems except the
Shiahs belong, and which are all represented in the
city of Baghdad.
The first Imam was born at Basra in a.d. 699.
He spent the greater part of his life at Kufa, and
died at Baghdad a.d. 767. The magnificent
mosque at Muadham contains the tomb of this
famous first Imam.
The second Imam, Ibn Malik (a.d. 713-795),
spent the whole of his life in Medina. The third
SHRINES AND RELIGIOUS SECTS 159
Imam, As-Shafi, was born in Mecca ; he came twice to
Baghdad, in a.d. 810 and again in 813, and died at
Cairo a.d. 820. Ibn Hanbal, the last great orthodox
Imam, was born at Baghdad a.d. 780, where he
lived during the reign of the Khalif Mamoun and
was buried at Muadham, but the river has carried
away his tomb. His system has practically ceased
to exist. There is no Mufti of the sect in the city
of Mecca, although the other three are still repre-
The most famous tomb in Baghdad is that of
Sheikh Abdl ul Kadir (a.d. 1252), who was known
as the great commentator on the Koran. Many
thousands of pilgrims come to Mesopotamia from
different parts of the Mohammedan world to visit
his tomb, but he is a particular favourite with the
inhabitants of Morocco. A story is told of how the
Sheikh delivered a course of sermons in Baghdad
upon the Koran. He began by explaining the
meaning of the dot which comes under the first
letter of the Holy Book. He had lectured on this
dot for nearly three months, when one night the
Angel Gabriel appeared to him and informed him
that all he had been saying about the dot was
perfectly correct, but it was not what God meant
when He put the dot under the " B " in the first
letter of the Koran.
There are many other sacred tombs in the neigh-
bourhood of Baghdad. One striking one is known
as the Tomb of Sheikh Maaruf el Kerkhi (12 15), not
far from the shrine of the Bektash dervishes. He
160 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
was the leader of a flourishing sect, and innumerable
graves surround his tomb ; for, in accordance with
Arab custom and belief, the people try to get buried
near the grave of some great man who is able, they
hope, to lead and guide them through the unknown
regions after death.
Three miles from Baghdad is the sacred Shiah
city of Kasmain. In the large mosque are the
tombs of the seventh and ninth Shiah Imams,
namely, Mousa Kasim and Mohammed Taki,
grandfather and grandson. The son of the former
is buried at Meshed, in Persia. Samarra, seventy
miles north of Baghdad, is equally important to
the Shiahs, but it also has a special interest for all
the other sects of Islam. In its Great Mosque
is enshrined the crevice from which the twelfth
Imam, El Mahdi, is said to have disappeared, to
come again, according to the belief of most Moslems,
with Christ at the end of the world.
Salman Pak, eighteen miles south of Baghdad, is
a place of Moslem pilgrimage close by the great
arch of Ctesiphon. It is reputed to contain the
bones of Mohammed's private barber, who now
performs miracles of healing for the devotees at his
There is a considerable amount of saint-worship
amongst the Moslem inhabitants of Mesopotamia,
and numbers of shrines have been erected along
many of the pilgrim roads. A story was told
me concerning a very well-built tomb which was
guarded and cared for by a pious Arab. In accord-
SHRINES AND RELIGIOUS SECTS 161
ance with their customs, the pilgrims entered a little
room and prayed to the saint who was buried there,
presenting the guardian with a coin that he might
also intercede with God and the saint on their be-
half. The guardian kept a servant and a fine white
donkey, which he presented to his faithful servant
when he had made his fortune and retired from
business. Four years afterwards the old man was
going along an unfrequented pilgrim road, and in an
isolated spot he saw a small tomb. Curiosity led
him to enter the tomb, where he found his servant
in charge. The old man demanded to know who
it was that was buried here. The servant replied :
" Don't be angry with me, master. I was coming
along this road with the fine white donkey which
you gave me, when something happened and the
donkey died. I did not know what I should do to
get my living without the aid of my beloved donkey.
I dug a big hole and buried him, and whilst I was
covering up the grave and weeping at my loss, some
pilgrims came by and thought I was burying a saint,
so without asking questions they put some money
into my hand. This put a thought into my head.
I brought some stones and built a little tomb. The
people have been very good to me, and I have always
prayed for their welfare ; but you must not be angry
with me, master : it is the beloved old donkey that
is buried here." The master chuckled to himself
and walked up and down for a few minutes. He
then returned to his servant and said : "It is a
remarkable coincidence ; how did you come to
162 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
think of it ? Did I ever tell you who was buried in
my tomb ? " The servant replied he always sus-
pected that it was some great personage, but the
master had not told him who it was. " Well,"
said the master, " I really must tell you, but you
must never mention it, for it was the mother of that
donkey which was buried there " !
The story of the rise of the great Shiah sect is
briefly as follows : In the days of the Prophet
Mohammed the leader of the Koreish tribe in Mecca
was Abu Sofyan, who opposed the Prophet and was
excluded from the amnesty granted to his foes when
Mohammed took possession of Mecca. Two parties
became recognised in the Holy City. One repre-
sented Mohammed's closest friends from Medina,
and the other represented the sympathisers with
the Koreish family at Mecca. The third Khalif,
Osman by name, was a member of this family, and
upon his succession his followers were given
positions of influence. His opponents succeeded
in assassinating him, and proclaimed Ali, the
cousin and son-in-law of Mohammed, to be the
Khalif of Islam. Muawiyeh, the son of Abu Sofyan,
was the Governor of Syria. He denounced Ali
as a murderer. A battle took place, in which Ali's
forces were defeated. Many of his followers seceded,
and Ali was subsequently assassinated by one of
these in the town of Kufa. Tradition declares
that his body was placed upon a bier and carried
by men out of the city, without any instructions as
to where the Khalif was to be buried. They were
SHRINES AND RELIGIOUS SECTS 163
directed by the Almighty God, and after walking
for about four miles with a great crowd of mourners
behind them they suddenly found it impossible to
go farther, and were evidently stopped by the inter-
vention of the angels. It was concluded that this
was the place where Ali was to be buried, and the
city which has grown up around his gorgeous,
golden-domed tomb is regarded by the Shiahs as
the most sacred place on earth. Around this large
walled city of Nejif, or Meshed Ali, there are great
cemeteries where hundreds of thousands of Shiah
Mohammedans have been buried. Thousands of
corpses are brought every year to be buried in this
After the death of Ali, Hasan, his eldest son,
renounced his claim to the Khalifate, and was
subsequently poisoned. Yazid succeeded his father,
Muawiyeh. He was hated by most of the Moslems,
and especially by the men of Kufa, which was the
centre of religious fanatics, the home of the doctors
of the law and some specially powerful theologians.
They invited Hosein, another son of Ali, to take
away the Khalifate from the house of Umaiyeh.
Hosein responded to their invitation and started
for Kufa. Yazid sent the Governor of Basra to
fight against him with a force of 3000 men. The
treacherous fanatics of Kufa gave Hosein no assist-
ance, and his brave escort of forty horsemen and
one hundred foot-soldiers fell, one by one, until all
were killed and Hosein was left alone with his little
child. The scene was a strange one, and the tragic
164 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
death of Hosein is commemorated every year on the
ioth day of Moharrem in the great Shiah Passion
Play. Hosein was seated upon the ground with his
infant son running round him and all his followers
lying dead close by. His enemies were longing for
his blood, but were afraid to touch the grandson of
the prophet Mohammed. Hosein took the little
lad into his arms, when a chance arrow pierced the
child's ear and it died at once. He placed the corpse
on the ground, saying, " We have come from God
and we return to Him. O God, give me strength
to bear these misfortunes." He went to the
Euphrates, which flowed close by, and as he stooped
to drink an arrow struck him in the mouth. His
enemies were now emboldened to rush upon him,
and they speedily put an end to his life (a.d. 680).
The plain of Kerbela, where Hosein was killed, has
become as sacred as the city of Nejif, and the city
of Kerbela is more honoured than Mecca as a place
of pilgrimage for the Shiah Mohammedans.
The whole of the different branches of the Shiah
sect refuse to recognise any but Ali as the true
successor to Mohammed, the only rightful Khalif
The chief industry of Kerbela is the manufacture
of " torbas." These are small pieces of baked
clay, generally about two or three inches long, and
of various shapes. They bear upon them the
names of Ali and Fatima. They are made of the
holy soil from around the cities of Kerbela and
Nejif. They are purchased by the pilgrims and
SHRINES AND RELIGIOUS SECTS 165
reverently carried home, to be subsequently used
on every occasion when prayer is offered. The
" torbas " are placed upon the ground, and the
forehead, in prayer, is brought down until it touches
the sacred clay.
Some Englishmen have declared that the Turk,
though a bad administrator, is not a brutal tyrant,
at any rate not in his dealings with Mohammedans,
and that therefore in Mesopotamia the Arabs still
love the Turk more than their new masters. The
facts, however, go to prove the contrary. Take,
for example, what has happened at Kerbela, the
most sacred Moslem city in the country. In 1854,
while the Boundary Commissioners were assembled
in Erzeroom, a despatch announced the massacre
of 22,000 Shiahs by the Turks in Kerbela. In
April 1 9 16 a Turkish force attacked Kerbela, and
bombarded the sacred mosques of Hosein and
Abbas ; but the inhabitants defended the city and
compelled the Turks to retire. Shortly afterwards
another expedition arrived, and the commander
pleaded he only wanted permission for the troops
to pass through the town, as he intended to defend
it from the approaching enemy. The chiefs, who
knew the smooth-tongued Turk better than most
Europeans, refused, as Kerbela, they pointed out, did
not lie on the road to Kut. The commander
turned to the chiefs of Hillah with the same
request. These so-called " lovers of the Turk "
five times refused a passage through their town,
and the revictualling of the Turkish troops. The
166 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
commander at last took a copy of the Koran and
wrote upon it : " The Book of God introduces us to
you. It binds us to you and yours with a solemn
promise which we have made before God and His
Prophet. We bear you no ill-will, we will do you
no harm ; your possessions, your women, and your
honour will be safe ; we only ask for a free passage
and food for our troops." The Turks have always
played upon the fervent religious fanaticism of
their Moslem subjects, and once again, after these
solemn declarations, the religious appeal was
successful. The troops were admitted ; they at
once took possession of the town defences, and then
invited the chiefs to a conference with the com-
mander. They came, and were of course arrested
and imprisoned. The following day fifteen Arab
notables and chiefs were hanged, in flagrant defiance
of the sacred promise sworn on the Koran a few
days before. That night the exasperated inhabit-
ants attacked the Turkish troops, who at once
retaliated, and in a few hours nearly half the city
was reduced to ashes by the Turkish artillery.
The Moslem soldiers suffered as much as the
civilian population. On my way to a city in Asia
Minor some years ago, I arrived at a caravanserai
just before sunset, and saw a company of miserable
soldiers coming to the place, riding on small
donkeys. They were terribly ill, suffering from
fever and unable to walk. From their lips I learned
that their regiment had been stricken by an out-
break of typhus and typhoid ; most of their
SHRINES AND RELIGIOUS SECTS 167
companions had died in the barracks, and they were
at last sent off to their homes, six days' journey
away, with only a few pence in their pockets, and
these small donkeys as their only means of con-
veyance. The following day the rain came down
in torrents, but the officers in charge of the group
urged them forward, and for eight hours these
miserable Moslem soldiers were driven through
torrents of rain, with the result that most of them
died before they reached their homes.
The treacherous Turk can play the Pious Piper
before the far-away Moslems of India as cleverly as
he acts the penitent thief before his European
sympathisers ; but unless we are prepared to ignore
the facts of his history we must agree with thousands
of Indian Moslem soldiers who saw the Turk in
Mesopotamia, Syria, and Asia Minor, that he is not
a pious Moslem, and that even to his troops and to
his Moslem subjects he has too often acted as a
THE HIGHLANDS OF KURDISTAN
Kurdistan is more mountainous and more pic-
turesque than the wildest highlands of Scotland,
and it may some day prove to be as indispensable
to the city of Baghdad as are the Highlands of
our Isles to the metropolis of our Empire. These
wild, rugged regions lie to the north and north-east
of Mesopotamia, and are inhabited by two distinct
classes of Kurds, as well as by four different
Christian communities. There are the settled
Kurdish pillagers and townsfolk, who have little
sympathy with the roving robber tribesmen of
the same race ; but their migration into the districts
of Armenia has created a problem that will be
difficult to solve.
In addition to the Armenians, there are three
other Christian communities scattered about
amongst the mountains of Kurdistan. They are
known as (i) the Assyrians, Nestorians, or Eastern
Syrians, (2) the Jacobites or Western Syrians, and (3)
the Chaldeans. These all speak Syriac of different
dialects, and most of them are acquainted with
THE HIGHLANDS OF KURDISTAN 169
Arabic and Kurdish. They are descended from
the same original stock, and are distinguished
chiefly by questions of theology. The Assyrians
acknowledge the leadership of the patriarch Mar
Shimoon, who resided at Kochanes, in the mountains.
The Jacobite patriarch lives at a monastery near
Mar din ; while the Chaldeans represent those
Assyrians who have become united to the Church
of Rome under the headship of a Chaldean patriarch
who resides at Mosul. The Chaldean and the Syrian
Catholic community have always been under the
protection of France, which is the main reason why
the French claimed mandatory powers for the city
The Kurds for the most part are destitute of
religious beliefs, but as nominal Mohammedans
they were permitted to be armed by the Turks, who,
finding it impossible to subdue them, caused them
to be enrolled as irregular cavalry, and practically
confided to them the duty of robbing and enslaving
their Christian neighbours. There was a time,
however, within the memory of the present genera-
tion, when the Kurd had a better reputation than
he has to-day, when he would, for example, scorn
to injure the women- folk of a tribe or community
with which he was at war. The Turks, however,
are responsible for lending their aid to the most
vicious of the Kurdish chieftains, and for bestow-
ing their patronage upon those who fostered the
demoralised standards for which the Kurds are now
170 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
They are supposed to be descended from the
ancient Carduchi, who harassed the 10,000 Greeks
that were led by Xenophon through the borders of
Kurdistan. An Assyrian inscription, discovered at
Nineveh, informs us that at the time of a great
deluge a ship or ark rested upon the u mountain of
Nizir," which is identified with a place near
Rowanduz, whose Kurdish inhabitants earnestly
petitioned the British military authorities to
include them within the British mandatory sphere
of Mesopotamia. Sir Henry Rawlinson suggested
it was from these mountains that the white races
came, called in Genesis " the sons of God," who in
the land of Shinar intermarried with the darker
" daughters of men/'
In some of my journeys through the mountains
I was much impressed by the physical character-
istics of the Kurdish and Christian villagers. Both
are frequently blue-eyed, of fairer complexion
than the dwellers in Mesopotamia ; they have some-
what European features, and are as strong and as
sturdy as the Highlanders of Scotland ; but the
Kurds are generally vicious, heartless, cruel, and
cowardly to the last degree.
I have met some Kurds, however, who are
inclined to live peaceably with their neighbours,
who have even protected the Christian villagers,
at times, from the robber tribesmen ; and some of
the best, as well as some of the worst, Turkish
officials have hailed from Kurdistan. It was a
common saying in the cities of the Tigris that the
THE HIGHLANDS OF KURDISTAN 171
Kurds were always in the way. They would either
be found as robber bands blocking the mountain
path, or as porters they could be seen blocking the
streets of the big cities. In a land where cranes
and trollies are unknown, these powerful moun-
taineers were able to negotiate the heaviest bales
of merchandise. Occasionally one of them would
be seen creeping through the busy bazaars with a
piano or a wardrobe on his back. The brown felt
pudding-basin hat readily distinguishes the Kurd
from the other races of Mesopotamia.
All the seamen upon the river steamers, as well
as most of the servants in the houses of Europeans,
come from the Christian villages of Kurdistan.
They are of similar physique, and as warlike as
the Kurds, but they are better educated, and there
is no doubt that they would have been able to hold
their own in these mountains if they had been
placed, by the Turkish Government, upon an equal
footing with the Kurds. Those who are acquainted
with the country and the people are convinced that
the problems of Kurdistan will in due time dis-
appear with the removal of the Turk, who has so
long blighted the land and its inhabitants. If only
the criminal classes had been lawfully punished and
equal justice administered to all Turkish subjects,
there would have been no massacres and no such
serious problems as now confront the Allies in the
settlement of the Caucasus and Kurdistan.
These Turkish-trained ruffians gave us an im-
mense amount of trouble on the Persian frontier
172 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
and in the Mosul vilayet ; they imagined they
could murder political officers with impunity, and
military officers mysteriously disappeared from
some of the rest camps. They were protected,
to some extent, from punitive expeditions by the
inaccessibility of their mountain homesteads along
the Turko-Persian frontier, whence they would
suddenly emerge to raid their Christian neighbours,
or prey upon the peaceful Moslem merchants of
Persia. They waylaid every Moslem pilgrim and
spoiled the merchants who tried to make use of the
ancient highways that lead from Mesopotamia to
Persia and India. We could not avoid facing the
problems of Southern Kurdistan, for the Kurds
would not mind their own business and persist-
ently interfered with ours. They harassed every
convoy, raided our lines of communication, cap-
tured several cars on their way to the Caspian Sea,
murdered the occupants, and committed so many
atrocities that suitable escorts had to be sent with
every motor lorry travelling along the road to
It will not be necessary, as some suppose, to
maintain perpetually a large army in Northern
Mesopotamia for the purpose of keeping order.
The small punitive expeditions that were under-
taken by Indian troops, Assyrian volunteers, with
mountain batteries, proved equal to the task of
subduing some of the worst of the Kurdish tribes
in the most inaccessible regions of Southern
Kurdistan. The country is not so difficult as the
THE HIGHLANDS OF KURDISTAN 173
mountainous regions beyond the frontiers of India,
and though there is plenty of racial bitterness, there
is practically no religious fanaticism ; for the Kurds
are robbers and murderers pure and simple, and the
secret of all success must lie in the establishment of
British prestige. This cannot be done in a moment,
but, when once it is accomplished, the Kurdish
chieftains will hesitate to break their agreements,
for their innate selfishness will suffice to restrain
them from unprofitable raids. They will discover
there is greater gain in living peaceably with their
new neighbours, who will also be in a better position
than the Armenians to punish them for their un-
Some years before the war British merchants in
Baghdad complained that their trade with Persia
had come almost to a standstill. The Germans had
something to do with this, for they were under-
mining our prestige ; but the Kurds were responsible
for preventing the passage of British goods along
the roads to Persia, and for making havoc of the
once flourishing border towns. Persia is now
recovering from anarchy, famine, and the effects
of the war. She offers unique prospects to European
merchants, but her trade would be stopped, her
treasury would be empty, and her independence
would be imperilled if the Kurds were permitted to
continue to ravage her borders.
Some very important roads from Persia to Europe
lie through Kurdistan, and the rapidity of Persia's
recovery, as well as the value of Persia's minerals,
174 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
must largely depend upon the opening up of secure
communication with Europe and the Mediterranean
ports. We cannot shirk the problems of Kurdistan ;
there is no alternative, we are bound to face them ;
our own security and the world's peace depend upon
a satisfactory settlement of the whole of the former
There is an immense amount of mineral wealth
in Kurdistan and the plateaux of Armenia ; some
of the finest tobacco is grown here, though the timber
of Kurdistan is scarce and said to be worth its weight
in gold. Some years ago the Turks prohibited me
from purchasing a small house in a salubrious
Assyrian Christian village. I wanted to make use of
it as a holiday resort for our workers in Mesopotamia,
but the Government objected to an Englishman
owning property in a Christian village. With
the settlement of Kurdistan and the construction
of roads and railways, there is little doubt that
the British will find many a " white man's corner "
in these beautiful mountains, and a place like
Rowanduz will become an ideal summer refuge from
the scorching plains of the south. I fully anticipate
that amongst these mountains there will some day
be established the summer headquarters of the
Mesopotamian Government, to serve the same
purpose for Baghdad that Simla has served for
Though I have not had the privilege of penetrat-
ing far into Kurdistan, I have frequently travelled
through the borders of the country, and have had
THE HIGHLANDS OF KURDISTAN 175
some exciting experiences with the Kurds of
Jezireh and the villagers to the north of Nisibin.
On the 17th of April 1901 1 started upon a journey
to the east of Mosul. My catechist and servants left
two hours before me, whilst I was obtaining letters
of introduction to some of the leading villagers.
As soon as I was ready I mounted my bicycle and
quickly caught them up. The village of Neby
Yunis is the first place of interest one passes imme-
diately after crossing the Mosul bridge. On the
north side of the road is the famous mound of
Kuyunjik, and beyond it are innumerable other
mounds that cover the ruins of ancient Nineveh.
After winding in and out amongst the ruins, I
suddenly turned a corner and came upon a company
of horsemen. Three Turkish officials, mounted on
high-spirited Arab mares, led the procession, with
some Arab notables following in single file. The
leading horse bowed its acknowledgment to the
superiority of my iron steed, bolted up the bank,
and left its rider rolling in the dust. The second
and third did likewise as they came in sight of my
bicycle. I stopped to apologise, and the mishap
proved to be a pleasant introduction to my wonder-
I quickly reached the Christian village of Bartolli,
where all the inhabitants turned out to see me.
They swarmed upon the hillock of stable refuse
outside the village to gaze at my iron horse, with
many exclamations of wonder, while the children
ran around me screaming and yelling their delight.
176 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
Most of these villagers were Syrian Jacobites, and
all very poor as a result of long years of Turkish
exactions. The head man hospitably received me
into his miserably dirty house, where there was only
one decent room. I quickly suggested transferring
my bedding to the flat roof, where I had a talk
with the villagers till long after sunset, and then
tried to sleep.
We started off soon after sunrise, and again a
large crowd turned out to see me mount my bicycle.
In about an hour we reached a nice cool stream in
a pleasant valley, where I called a halt and fixed up
an impromptu tent by turning my bicycle upside
down and spreading a blanket over the wheels.
We refreshed ourselves with a much-needed bath,
and then I lay down in the shade of my blanket
in order to recover some of the sleep that had been
snatched from me during the night by the village
vermin, while one of the servants returned to rescue
an indispensable teapot that had been left behind.
Early in the afternoon we ascended a very steep
path up the side of Jebel Maklub until we reached
the doors of a Syrian Jacobite monastery called
Sheikh Matti. We were kindly received by the
aged Bishop and two monks, who escorted us to the
Bishop's dirty little room, with two small windows
from which one obtained a glorious glimpse of the
extensive plain that reaches beyond Mosul to the
Sin jar Mountains. We * subsequently visited the
cave where the much-revered Ibn Hebraeus studied
and wrote his famous commentaries. Late that
THE HIGHLANDS OF KURDISTAN 177
night a well-armed Kurdish ruffian was admitted to
the hospitality of the monastery. He was accom-
panied by a young girl, who was kindly entertained
by the deaconesses who, strange to say, reside at
the monastery. The Kurd and his stolen bride
departed before sunrise, and in the morning I learned
from the Bishop the story of a Kurdish lover whose
petitions had been rejected by the father of the girl ;
so he arranged a midnight elopement and outwitted
his pursuers by seeking the shelter of a Christian
monastery at night, and hiding by day in the caves
of the mountains.
The following day we wandered to the far side
of the mountain in order to visit the fine ruined
monastery of Mar Ebrahom, which is beautifully
situated in a lovely gorge overlooking the Upper
Zab and the country that stretches towards Erebil.
We came across a number of Kurds who were cutting
down the oaks for the purpose of preparing charcoal,
and we were astonished to see one powerful Kurdish
girl, of fifteen summers only, who was carrying on
her back a huge sack of charcoal about twice her
size. We had an exciting experience with half a
dozen wild boar, such as one may encounter in
many parts of the mountains. We possessed but
one revolver, so beat a hasty retreat when we
stumbled too near the lair of an angry sow. On
our return the Bishop pointed out the entrance
to a long tunnel that went right from his monastery
through the mountain to the ruins of Mar Ebrahom.
He also produced an ancient volume containing the
178 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
information that soon after the death of Constantine
the Great the monastery and the surrounding caves
were inhabited by over 1200 monks. He showed us
some famous old tombs in his monastery church,
bearing inscriptions that date back nearly 1600
I had a narrow escape from a nasty accident
when the Bishop insisted on my explaining to him
the method of riding a bicycle. I protested there
was no place in the monastery where I could con-
veniently mount it, but he compelled me to go
with him to a narrow roof, and there I tried, as
carefully as possible, to show him how I mounted
the iron horse. A sudden gust of wind carried
me along farther than I had intended to go, and I
was nearly hurled headlong into the valley below,
only saving my neck by breaking my knees upon
the small coping that surrounded the roof.
The next day I proceeded towards the village of
Bashaikah, passing through a few Mohammedan
hamlets belonging to the Shiah sect known as the
Shabakah. Bashaikah is also a Christian Jacobite
village, where I was very warmly welcomed by
the priest, who invited me to take up my quarters
inside the church, as this seemed to be the regular
caravanserai for travellers. Our animals were
tethered to trees in the churchyard, and, by way of
showing special honour to an English cleric, the
priest ordered my bed to be spread on the chancel
steps, and the episcopal chair was brought out of
the sanctuary to serve me as a table We were
THE HIGHLANDS OF KURDISTAN 179
interested to learn that the fine large church had
been built entirely by the villagers. It was a
substantial marble structure without transepts, but
the customary screened chancel and nave were
covered with quite a respectable dome. The village
priest was the head mason of the village, as well
as being the chief farmer and spiritual adviser to
I had a very friendly reception in the neigh-
bouring village of Bahsani, and in some of the
Yezidee villages of the district, where we were per-
mitted to enter their roofless sanctuaries, which had
the appearance of Druidical cromlechs.
Soon after my return to Mosul I received a tele-
gram from an American missionary of Urumiah,
to say he was smitten with sunstroke at the moun-
tain village of Dehi. There was no doctor at that
time in Mosul, and as I was the only European
friend likely to be able to help him, I decided to
start away the same evening, accompanied by a
well-known Syrian who had spent many years in
America. This gentleman, Daoud by name, pro-
cured the necessary mules after much difficulty,
while I busied myself with the packing of medicines
and provisions. As the shade temperature was
about 97 , it was advisable to travel only by night.
The muleteer promised to hurry us across the scorch-
ing plain so that we might reach the village of
Dehok, at the foot of the mountains, soon after
sunrise. As usual, however, we started badly, for
the mules were two hours late. We then learned
lo MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
to our sorrow that the animals, which the muleteer
declared were as frisky as gazelles, had only reached
Mosul with merchandise that morning, so that
they were tired and we were consequently making
very slow progress. After the busy day spent in
making preparations, we also began to feel pain-
fully sleepy, and at midnight we stopped for half an
hour to feed the mules. Wrapped up in my over-
coat, I lay down upon the thorny earth and
immediately fell fast asleep. To wake up and
mount a mule after so brief a nap is an agonising
experience, but we reminded ourselves of the still
far-distant shelter that could not be reached before
the break of day. We were grieved to learn at
sunrise that it would still take us five hours to
reach Dehok. Within an hour the sun began to
feel unpleasantly hot : we knew that a few hours
of this sort of travelling under a scorching sun
would certainly incapacitate us, so we decided to
make for a village six miles distant. The heat was
terrific, and the glare of the barren plain, for that
few miles, was like the glow of a furnace fire. There
was no tree or shade of any kind to be seen in the
plain, and our only hope of shelter was to ride on
with all speed to the village.
At last we arrived, and found it to be a half-ruined
Yezidee village. Many of the huts were unoccupied,
and the few people that remained were evidently
in great misery and destitution. There were no
cows, no chickens, no eggs ; there was no food of
any kind to be bought, and we found the place
THE HIGHLANDS OF KURDISTAN 181
intolerably hot, swarming with flies, and unspeak-
ably dirty ; still, we were thankful for the small
amount of shelter afforded us by a stone wall and
mud roof. A little porridge and a cup of cocoa
refreshed us, but we sorely needed rest, and we all
complained of a splitting headache, the flies worried
us, and sleep seemed impossible in such a place.
My companions drew attention to our bloodshot
eyes and declared we should never be able to reach
the mountain village if every step of the journey
was to be as bad as this. I looked about for a
cooler place, and suddenly alighted upon a very
dark, dirty stable with two horses in it. The people
warned me not to enter it, but I resolved to risk it
and, putting on my Wellington boots, I carried my
camp bedstead into the stable and placed it in the
darkest corner and tried to steal a little sleep before
the vermin found me out. The people were right,
but I managed to get in two hours' slumber. My
companions followed my example, and after another
meal we mounted our animals and started away
two hours before sunset.
For an hour we skirted the foot of a small moun-
tain, and then our road lay through a pleasant
valley, in some places well wooded, whilst here and
there we came across picturesque waterfalls partially
concealed by the foliage. On the slopes of the
mountains to the right of the road there lay an
enormous stretch of vineyards : the town was on
the opposite side, and the direct path should have
brought us to our resting-place in two and a half
1*2 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
hours. Without being aware of our muleteers'
plans, for reasons of their own they led us by a
circuitous road that delayed us nearly three hours.
On reaching the town we took refuge in a quiet
corner on the roof of a khan, had a good meal, and
then rolled off into a sound slumber. We were now
safe from the heat of the plain, for the air of Dehok
was decidedly cooler than that of Mosul, and our
road henceforth led up into the mountains.
We started soon after sunrise, passed through
some beautifully hilly country, and after a few
hours reached the Kurdish village of Kemakah,
charmingly situated upon a mountain ridge, with a
lovely verdant valley spreading out before it. The
sheikh's house was nicely built and well kept, but
the aged owner was absent, and we were welcomed
by his son with every mark of honour and respect.
Carpets and cushions were spread for us under a
large nubbak tree, and some of the villagers were
quickly ordered to supply us with all the food and
water we needed.
With true Eastern courtesy, which to the Western
traveller passes for impertinence, we were duly
asked to explain the object of our journey and all
our business. We told them of the sick missionary
in Dehi, and the people were at once persuaded that
I was a first-class doctor and Daoud was my
assistant. We were therefore obliged to see a
number of patients and freely dispensed our
medicines, never omitting, however, the necessary
preliminary of examining the pulse before we
THE HIGHLANDS OF KURDISTAN 183
pronounced upon the complaint or its remedy. To
have treated an ulcer with a little boracic before
feeling the pulse would have spoiled our chances
A little after noon, when thoroughly tired, we
begged leave to take a little sleep ; but we were not
permitted to rest long in peace, for most of the
women of the village had been gathered in the
sheikh's house, and we were asked to go and see
them before proceeding on our journey. An
immense number of complaints were brought before
us, and we knew it would be useless to plead our
inability, so we commenced to distribute more
medicines in the wisest way possible. The people
have their own ideas about diseases and remedies,
wherefore Daoud wisely insisted upon humouring
them with the use of a terminology that they
understood ; so a calomel tabloid was described
as a " hot " remedy for a " cold " complaint ;
quinine became a " cold " remedy for a " hot "
complaint ; while a tonic was described as an
" expulsive " remedy for the " air " in the lungs.
This condescension to their prejudices no doubt
saved us a lot of time, added to the efficacy of our
remedies, and augmented our reputation.
The heat of the day having thus passed very
pleasantly, we again mounted our mules, crossed
the valley, and climbed the second mountain range.
As soon as we reached the summit there lay before
us another charming village, nestling amid numerous
fruit-gardens, surrounded by extensive vineyards,
184 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
and crouching, as it were, beneath the guard of a
hundred stately poplars. It was nearly sunset
when we reached this Assyrian Christian village ;
the muleteers were anxious to stay, but we were
told that Dehi was only three hours beyond, so
we determined to press on.
We struggled along slowly in the darkness, and
after two and a half hours reached another Kurdish
village, for the muleteers had once more taken the
wrong road. The dogs began to bark, and in a
moment we were surrounded by a suspicious crowd
of Kurds, all armed with rifles and daggers. Our
muleteers again tried to force us to stay, but it was
evident that by doing so we should certainly have
been robbed. Half an hour's wrangling seemed
to make no improvement in the situation, for the
villagers began to unstrap our baggage, and matters
looked so serious that I felt obliged to order the
Zaptiah, who was our official guard, to leave the
village at once and walk on in front of me. At
the same moment I whispered to Daoud to make
terms with the village sheikh and to offer him a
bribe if he would accompany us as guide. The
double move proved successful, and we started
away with the would-be robber at our head.
Travelling was now very difficult and really dan-
gerous in the darkness. Three times I rolled off my
saddle in consequence of the girths working them-
selves loose through the steep ascents and descents
of the road. Soon after midnight we entered the
little village of Dehi. The barking of the dogs
THE HIGHLANDS OF KURDISTAN 185
aroused everybody, and immediately the roofs of
the houses were alive with the disturbed villagers.
We made anxious inquiries after the missionary,
and were gratified to learn that he had made a rapid
recovery and was slumbering in a tent just outside
the village, so we decided not to disturb him till
We spent five pleasant days in this charming
mountain village. It is a place that has frequently
been used as a summer resort for the American
missionaries who formerly worked in Mosul. The
village is situated about 2500 feet above sea-level,
and the stately mountains present a magnificent
spectacle, rising higher and higher, range after
range, beyond the village towards the Tiari country.
The snow is always visible and can be reached in
a walk of six or seven hours from the village. Our
tent was pitched in a shady spot by the side of a
great ravine, and during the night I found it neces-
sary to cover myself with three thick blankets as a
protection from the wind that swept down the
Early in the morning we had a pleasant talk with
some of the villagers, and the missionary suggested
to a young lad that he should go and bring us some
honey for breakfast. He was wearing a brown felt
hat exactly the shape of an inverted pudding-
basin. In a very short time he returned to us with
the hat full of honey, mixed with wild bees, as he
had evidently made a raid upon a mountain hive.
We were visited day after day by large numbers of
186 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
Kurds, and accepted invitations to some of their
Our journey back to Mosul was by a different road,
and, as a rumour was spread around that a European
doctor was travelling through the mountains, the
villagers gave us no rest ; at every stopping-place
we were besieged by unreasonable crowds clamour-
ing for medicines.
On one of our night journeys I had a terrible
fright and a narrow escape from sudden death We
were proceeding slowly one behind the other along
a difficult mountain path, in the pitch darkness
made more dense by the overhanging oaks and
towering rocks. The first mule was being led by
our guide and we all followed closely behind, in and
out, up and down, stumbling and slipping over ugly
rocks and stones. The girth of my English saddle
occasionally getting loose upon the small mountain
mule, made it difficult for me to keep quite close to
the one in front. At a sharp turn in the path the
leaders disappeared and my animal, losing the way,
kept straight on. Suddenly, to my horror, I saw
the mule had come to the very brink of a precipice,
revealed by the light of a camp-fire in the valley
beneath. Two more steps and we would have gone
headlong over the precipice. I drew the reins with
all my might ; to turn about was dangerous, for an
awkward step backwards would have been fatal, so
I simply slid off as gently as possible, and when I
reached the ground I breathed a thanksgiving and
determined to ride no more till break of day. I
THE HIGHLANDS OF KURDISTAN 187
shouted to my companions to wait for me till I had
discovered the track, and having reached them I
delivered the reins of my mule to one of the men and
walked along for the rest of the night's march.
The difficulties were such that we found it im-
possible to complete the stage that night to Dehok,
so called a halt in a deep ravine by the side of a very
unpleasant sulphur spring. A few strangers were
prowling about, and as I could not see who or what
they were, I warned the servants to watch in turn,
but being excessively tired they all quickly fell
asleep. As the baggage was mine and not theirs,
I suppose it was only natural that anxiety for its
safety successfully kept me awake. At the dawn of
day I noticed a stranger lying asleep close by me.
He was an ill-clad Turkish soldier who had borrowed
one of our saddle-bags to serve as a covering, and
there he lay with his legs inside it, a perfect picture
The only village we stopped at on this return
journey was the famous Chaldean Christian village
of Tel- Keif, about ten miles from Mosul. The ride
from here across the hot plain to Mosul was a short
but trying one, yet all was forgotten in the long
sleep we slept that night in our own clean beds upon
our own hospitable roofs.
CHRISTIAN MISSIONS IN MESOPOTAMIA
The Apostle St Thomas is credited with having
found his way to the banks of the Euphrates and
the Tigris, where, it is said, he successfully
evangelised those dwellers in Mesopotamia of whom
some were in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.
The Church which was founded here evidently
developed remarkable missionary activity, for within
a few centuries its operations had extended to
Persia, India, and the far-distant boundaries of
Political conditions constantly tended to isolate
the churches of Mesopotamia from the rest of
Christendom. The Roman Emperors and their
successors were always at war with the various rulers
of the lands beyond the Euphrates, and the inevit-
able result was that misunderstandings arose between
the theologians of the different countries, the re-
ligious opinions of the Christians in Mesopotamia
were regarded as heretical, and in due course these
communities became known to Western Christen-
dom as Nestorians.
CHRISTIAN MISSIONS 189
Their missionary activity, however, was in no
way diminished by their isolation from the main
body of the Christian Church. Interesting rumours
came from Persia of flourishing churches associated
with the famous Prester John, and when Vasco da
Gama discovered the Cape route to India, great
was his surprise to be greeted by a Christian king
who ruled over large provinces of Christian subjects
along the Malabar coast. It is recorded that King
Alfred the Great, in the year 883, sent a mission for
devotional purposes to the shrine of St Thomas in
Malabar, and that his messengers travelled by the
customary overland route, through Asia Minor and
Mesopotamia. When Haroun 1 Raschid was the
great Khalif of Baghdad there were as many as
twenty-five primates who acknowledged the supre-
macy of the Baghdad patriarch, and who guided
the fortunes of the flourishing Christian churches
that were established between Edessa and Pekin.
The descendants of the early Indian Christians
still number about half a million souls in Malabar,
and it is interesting to recall the fact that their
evangelisation was effected in the early centuries
of the Christian era from the land of Mesopotamia,
the conquest of which became India's chief concern
in the great world war.
The Malabar communities are still called the
" Christians of St Thomas," from a tradition, as
some suppose, that the Apostle himself laboured in
India and was buried in Mylapore. It is more
probable, however, that only the name came to
igo MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
India with the missionaries from Mesopotamia who
received their commission from the churches of
St Thomas, and who would carry with them both
the authority and the prestige of their apostolic
founder. Some of these Christians are called
"Jacobites," not because Jacob of Nisibin went
to Malabar, but because his devoted labours have
caused his name to become attached to that branch
of the Church to which these Malabar Christians
But the missionaries from Mesopotamia not only
evangelised large portions of India, they penetrated
to the confines of China at a time when travelling
must have been most difficult and dangerous. An
interesting book, written by a Chinaman, upon
The Nestorian Monument in China throws light
upon the successful labours of these early messengers
to the Far East. For over 600 years (namely, from
a.d. 618-1277) the Nestorian leaven gradually
but surely permeated the whole tone of Chinese
literature, and the theistic conceptions which are
clearly expressed by Confucian and Tauoist writers
can be traced to the Christian notions which the
Chinese derived from the men of Mesopotamia.
Professor Saeki informs us that an imperial edict
was issued in the year 845, for the purpose of sup-
pressing the foreign teachers who had found their
way to China, which ordered 3000 Nestorian and
Moslem teachers to return to secular life and cease
bringing confusion into the national customs and
manners of the Chinese. There are indications in
CHRISTIAN MISSIONS 191
China to-day that the influence of these teachers
has to some extent survived the repression that was
intended to utterly crush it out. If, however, the
marks of their successful labours have been mostly
obliterated in China, we must not too hastily assume
that this is solely because their presentation of
Christianity was an imperfect one. We are learn-
ing to-day what havoc can be wrought in Christen-
dom by persecution and war ; we remember that
many Christian provinces in North Africa and the
East have been desolated by fanatical oppressors ;
and most missionaries will readily acknowledge the
imperfections of our Western methods that hamper
the effective presentation of the Truth to the
Eastern mind. Nevertheless, the Gospel prevails
in a world that lieth in wickedness, and the marvel
remains that so much was accomplished in India
and China by the early missionaries of Mesopotamia.
It is not only India and the Far East that owe
their debt of gratitude to the Churches of Mesopo-
tamia : the lands of the West are much more in-
debted to the learned Nestorian divines of the city
of Baghdad. In the years that produced The
Arabian Nights, when Islam flourished by the
waters of Babylon, in the golden prime of Haroun
1 Raschid, there were some remarkable movements
amongst the Moslems in favour of freethought and
philosophical speculations. The followers of the
Prophet not only fraternised with Christians, many
of whom obtained high positions at the Sultan's
court, but they persuaded the learned theologians
192 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
to translate the Greek philosophies of Aristotle
and Plato into the Arabic tongue. It was thus
that the Arabs in the East were able to preserve,
through the Dark Ages, when barbarians overran
Europe, the light and learning which is now claimed
to be an essential element of Western culture. In
subsequent years, when Mohammedanism spread
through North Africa and established itself in
Southern Spain, these Arabic writings found their
way to the West and were retranslated at Granada
and Cordova into the Romance languages of Europe.
In this way the long-lost Greek philosophies were
rediscovered, and the diligent search for the originals
is known to have promoted that Revival of Learning
which led up to the Reformation and changed the
character of so many of the countries of Europe.
Those of us who have lived in Mesopotamia
could sympathise with the frequent complaints
made by our troops against the ferocious heat and
the countless plagues that made life intolerable in
that desolate land. Yet there was a time when the
whole of Mesopotamia was a veritable Garden of
Eden, due largely to the paramount influence of a
Christian woman ; when 90 per cent, of its fertile
soil was brought under cultivation by means of
extensive irrigation. This was at the close of the
Persian Sassanian dynasty, under the rule of
Chosroes II., whose ruined palace is now represented
by the great arch of Ctesiphon. The Parsees of
Bombay forwarded an address to General Towns-
hend in which they expressed their appreciation of
CHRISTIAN MISSIONS 193
the fact that at the battle of Ctesiphon the General
gave special orders to protect the venerable arch of
Chosroes II. was the last of the Sassanian
monarchs who ruled over Mesopotamia before the
Mohammedan invasion. He was a fugitive just
before he succeeded to the throne, and whilst he
was in exile he became deeply impressed by what
he saw and heard of Christian worship. Conse-
quently, in the earlier part of his reign he favoured
the profession of Christianity, and contrary to the
laws of the country he married a Christian wife,
Sira or Shirin. He built her a summer palace in a
salubrious spot, now also comparatively desolate, but
still known as Kasr-i-Shirin, for the possession of
which Russian and Turkish troops fought in the cam-
paigns that swayed to and fro on the Persian frontier.
Chosroes had a superstitious reverence for the
Christian saint and martyr, Sergius, whom he
adopted as a sort of patron saint of Mesopotamia.
The influence of Chosroes' Christian queen was so
great that she obtained permission to build numer-
ous churches and monasteries around Ctesiphon,
and when she died her statue was sculptured and
a present of one was sent by Chosroes to the Roman
Emperor, while others were sent to various poten-
tates in the East to signify the high regard held for
this Christian queen by one of the most strange
yet most successful monarchs of Mesopotamia.
Coming down to modern days, there is a brief
but interesting chapter in the history of Christian
194 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
evangelism in Mesopotamia which is not very gener-
ally known. It might be incorrect to say that
Plymouth Brethrenism was weaned in Mesopotamia,
but we should not be far wrong in using this ex-
pression, for some of its prominent leaders were
thrown together upon a work which its historian,
Neatby, declares, " provided one of the most
interesting episodes " in the whole of the history
of the Plymouth sect. Anthony N. Groves was
a dentist of Exeter, who, in obedience to what he
believed to be the commands of Christ, sold all he
had and started out in 1828 as a missionary to
Mesopotamia. He was accompanied by a youth
who was stone deaf, whom Groves had befriended
in his affliction, and who now found it his delight
to go with him to Baghdad as tutor to his boys.
This youth was none other than the famous John
Kitto, the C.M.S. compositor at the Malta printing
press, who subsequently attained eminence in the
department of Biblical literature. Kitto retained
a real affection for his kindly benefactor, and in an
enthusiastic eulogy of him declared that, " in the
whole world, as far as I know it, there is not one
man whose character I venerate so highly."
A year after Groves left England for Baghdad, a
party of seven others started out to join him, and
amongst them were Parnell, who afterwards became
Lord Congleton, and Francis W. Newman, who
became associated with his more famous brother,
Cardinal Newman, in the Tractarian movement.
This second party of missionaries was detained
CHRISTIAN MISSIONS 195
for fifteen months in Aleppo, and eventually reached
Baghdad in 1831, the year of the great plague which
carried off half the population of the city. The
plague was followed by civil war, the city was
besieged by Arab tribes, and bullets occasionally
swept the flat roof of the house on the banks of the
Tigris where Groves and his family slept.
Sorrow and misfortune dogged the steps of this
pioneer band of missionaries : a flood carried away
part of the mission house ; Mrs Cronin, the mother of
one of the missionaries, as well as the wife and a
child of Mr Groves, died in Baghdad ; Parnell, who
married Cronin's sister in Aleppo, also buried his
young wife there. Newman and Kitto returned to
England in 1832. Groves left Baghdad for India
in May 1833, and the mission in Mesopotamia was
given up a few years later.
In 1856 the Rev. A. Stern paid a visit to Baghdad
with a view to the opening up of missionary work
amongst the Jews, and a little later Joseph Wolff,
the son of a Bavarian rabbi, who had been
baptized by a Benedictine monk, also came to
Baghdad for the same purpose.
In 1876 the Free Church of Scotland sent one of its
Bombay missionaries to sell Scriptures in Baghdad,
where the British and Foreign Bible Society opened
a depot in 1880. On the recommendation of
Dr Bruce of Persia, the C.M.S. opened its work in
Baghdad in 1882, and continued it without a break
till Dr Johnson was removed by the Turks soon
after the British occupation of Basra.
196 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
In addition to the Protestant Missions, a very
extensive work has been carried on for over a
century by the Carmelites and Dominicans of the
Roman Communion. They have succeeded in
absorbing the majority of the Eastern Christians
into the Uniat communities which are called the
Chaldean, the Syrian Catholic, and the Armenian
MESOPOTAMIA AND MECCA
The British Empire was never confronted by a
greater peril than that which arose when the
Sultan of Turkey proclaimed, at the instigation of
Germany, a religious war to the two or three hundred
millions of Mohammedans. Mr Morgenthau, the
American Ambassador, has told us that his German
colleague Wangenheim explained to him one of
Germany's main purposes in forcing Turkey into the
conflict. " He made this explanation quite non-
chalantly, as though it had been quite the most
ordinary matter in the world. Sitting in his office,
puffing away at his big black German cigar, he
unfolded Germany's scheme to arouse the whole
fanatical Moslem world against the Christians."
Germany had planned a real " Holy War M as one
means of destroying English and French influence
in the world. " Turkey herself is not the really
important matter," said Wangenheim. " Her army
is a small one, and we do not expect it to do very
much. For the most part it will act on the defen-
sive. But the big thing is the Moslem world. If
198 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
we can stir up the Moslems against the English
and Russians we can force them to make peace." 1
So the German plan was forced upon a reluctant
Sultan, and in order that its solemn significance
may be properly appreciated I venture to quote the
following summary of the Fetwa issued by the
Sheikh 1 Islam at the time when the " Jehad "
was proclaimed at Constantinople :
" When the Khalif declares a Jehad it will be
necessary and imperative for all Moslems in
all quarters of the world, whether young or
old, to join the Jehad with all their might.
" It is necessary for all Moslems living in the
States of Russia, England, and France to take
up arms and literally to join the Jehad. All
who refrain from doing so will bring upon
themselves the wrath of God and will be
" Even those who are brought against their
will and with force are made to fight against
a Mohammedan state will be committing
murder punishable with hell-fire. Therefore in
the present war all Mohammedans who are in
England, France, Russia, Serbia, and Montene-
gro will be committing a great sin by fighting
against Germany and Austria, who are pro-
tectors and friends of Islam."
In addition to this official proclamation, a
pamphlet appeared which was read in the mosques
1 Secrets of the Bosphorus, p. 105.
MESOPOTAMIA AND MECCA 199
and distributed stealthily in India, Egypt, Morocco,
Syria, and other Mohammedan countries. Mr
Morgenthau gives us the translation of an extract
which declares :
" The killing of infidels who rule over Islam
has become a sacred duty, whether you do it
secretly or openly. As the Koran has decreed :
Take them and kill them whenever you find
them. Behold, we have delivered them into your
hands and given you supreme power over them.
He who kills even one unbeliever of those who
rule over us, whether he does it secretly or
openly, shall be rewarded by God. And let
every Moslem, in whatever part of the world
he may be, swear a solemn oath to kill at least
three or four infidels who rule over him, for
they are the enemies of God and of the faith.
Let every Moslem know that his reward for
doing so shall be doubled by the God who
created heaven and earth." 1
It was evident that Germany's pretensions to be
the friend of Islam were entirely insincere and
altogether political. When General Smuts was in
command of the British forces in East Africa, he
reported upon the capture of the German archives
at Moshi, where he found the following circular :
" You are requested to send within three
months from date of receipt a report stating
what can be done by means of Government
1 Secrets of the Bosphorus, p. 106.
200 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
servants and Government teachers to effect-
ively counteract the spread of Islamic propa-
ganda. Do you consider it possible to make
a regulation prohibiting Islam altogether ?
Possibly a rule might be enforced by which
teachers would not be allowed to perform
circumcisions or act as preachers in the
mosques, etc. The same prohibition might
also be applied to other Government servants.
The encouragement of pig-breeding among
natives is recommended by experts as an
effective means of stopping the spread of
Islam. Please consider this point also."
I have so often drawn attention to this serious
Eastern peril that some of my friends have won-
dered whether I was justified in laying so much
emphasis upon the Moslem menace. The numerous
quotations I adduce will assist my readers to gauge
the import of a scheme which I characterise as one
of the darkest plots ever conceived against the
forces of civilisation.
A statement was made by the Earl of Crewe in
the House of Lords on 20th July 191 5 which
indicated the importance of Mesopotamia in its
relation to Mecca and the whole of the Moslem
world. Referring to the situation created by the
proclamation of a Jehad, he said : " It was always
possible that if we had not then shown our strength
Islam as a whole might have been deflected against
us. It is difficult to foresee what the effect on
MESOPOTAMIA AND MECCA 201
Persia and on the Arabian peninsula would have
been if Islam so far east had declared itself hostile
to the Allies. It could hardly have been avoided
that Afghanistan should also have gone against us.
Further, we had to consider the position and
prospects of the great Moslem population of Africa,
which in turn might easily have been aroused against
us and our Allies. From those dangerous possi-
bilities, in our judgment, we were altogether saved
by the prompt move to the head of the Persian
Gulf," i.e. to Mesopotamia.
The two points to which I would draw attention
are : first, that the situation which was develop-
ing in the Moslem world threatened to become a
serious menace to the British Empire ; and secondly,
this situation was effectively dealt with, from a
military point of view, by a moving of troops to
Let us examine the two points separately.
1. The situation referred to was clearly that
which confronted Great Britain with the entry of
Turkey into the conflict, and the proclamation
of a " Holy War."
" It was possible," said Lord Crewe and much
more possible than most people at present realise,
" that the Moslem world as a whole might have
been deflected against us." What would then have
happened if we had failed to deal effectively with
this formidable menace, if the Holy War " had
followed the course anticipated by our foes ?
India, we must remember, was not absolutely
202 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
quiet. " There was serious unrest," said Mr Cham-
berlain, " at one moment in the Punjab, arising from
the return of emigrants not unconnected with
German intrigue and conspiracy. We must also
remember that there were German plots to provoke
risings there and to land arms, which required
constant vigilance and watching ; and that whilst
India was sending great forces abroad, there were
between 27th November 1914 and 5th September
1 91 5 no fewer than seven serious attacks made on
the North- West frontier." N w there are nearly
twice as many Moslems in India as there are people
in the British Isles, and Lord Hardinge informed us
that, in the absence of armed forces, we were obliged
to rely absolutely upon the good-will of our Indian
subjects. There were twenty millions of Moslems in
Russia, and the activities of the Senussi warned us
that the provinces governed by France and Italy in
North Africa are filled with some very fanatical
sects of Moslems.
I have no hesitation, therefore, in saying that if
the worst had happened and the worst might have
happened there would have been a massacre in
India, and the British authorities would have been
compelled to withdraw. The Moslems of the
Caucasus could have prevented the Russians from
penetrating into Persia or Armenia, and Germany,
with the aid of the Moslems, could have obtained
practical control of the lands that lie between Con-
stantinople and Calcutta. There would also have
been an uprising and a massacre in Egypt, North
MESOPOTAMIA AND MECCA 203
Africa, and the Soudan, and the whole southern
shore of the Mediterranean would have been at
Mohammedanism, when aroused by the call of a
Jehad, has more than once trampled down some of
the fairest fields of Christendom. It arose from the
deserts/ of Arabia, it spread like a consuming fire
over the Byzantine Empire, and came to the very
gates of Vienna. It trampled down the well-
organised Christian churches of Egypt and North
Africa, and established itself in Southern Spain.
It took possession of the finest Christian cities in
Eastern Europe, and it has held Constantinople for
nearly five hundred years, in spite of all that
millions of Crusaders could do to recover it for
Christendom. Now, once again, the Sultan of
Turkey used his authority, not as Sultan of the
Ottoman dominions, but as " Head of the Faith-
ful," to hurl at the British Empire not only the
Ottoman troops but the religious fanaticism of
the Mohammedan world. His official proclamation
might easily have resulted in a recrudescence of
fanaticism, to the ruin of our Empire overseas and
the devastation of Christendom.
2. All these developments were possible, and
" from these dangerous possibilities," said Lord
Crewe, " we were altogether saved by the expedition
to Mesopotamia." But why, we naturally ask,
should it be possible to deal with the whole Moslem
world through Mesopotamia ? Is not Cairo or Delhi
of more importance to Islam than Baghdad ? Yes,
204 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
but and the explanation is full of interest from
many points of view. Everybody knows, but most
people forget, that the Arab is essentially an Eastern,
that Islam is essentially the religion of the Arab,
and that Mecca is essentially the centre of Islam.
As an Eastern, the Arab has his own way of
looking at things a poetical and picturesque way,
neither logical nor yet unreasonable. The Arab
does not despise the West ; on the contrary, he
has a great admiration for many things Western ;
but nevertheless, just as no Christian is admitted to
Mecca, so also no Western influence is welcome there.
Cairo and Delhi are Westernised, the Egyptian
and Indian Moslems in the Arabian peninsula
are foreigners ; and in the matter of guidance the
Arab, as a true Eastern, will take counsel only of his
own kith and kin. The Shah of Persia once sent to
a Bakhtiari chief asking for the hand of his daugh-
ter, but all the liveried messengers from the royal
court failed to persuade the old man to listen to
the Shah's demands. He gave no reason for his
refusal : he simply refused. One day the chief met
a herdsman of his own tribe and kindred, who said
to him, " I hear you decline to give your daughter
to the Shah." "Yes," said the chief. "Well,
what do you think I ought to do ? " "I think
you ought to give her," was the reply. " Do you ?
Then so I will " and the thing was done.
Now Mecca as the centre of Islam will naturally
lead the Moslem world, but Mecca as the heart of
Arabia will not willingly be led by anything that is
MESOPOTAMIA AND MECCA 205
not Arab. How then could Mecca be reached and
effectively persuaded to use its immense influence
in the Moslem world as a counterpoise to the
Sultan's proclamation of a " Holy War " ? No
expedition could be landed at Jeddah or taken to
Mecca, for this would have precipitated a Moslem
revolt, and all communications with Mecca from
Jeddah or Damascus must pass under the watchful
scrutiny of the suspicious Turk. There was only
one other route to the centre of Islam, and Great
Britain has been able to keep this avenue open from
Mesopotamia for many a year past. There are
many highly respectable, pure-blooded Arabs at
the head of the Persian Gulf, who, thanks to
Great Britain, have not only enjoyed immunity from
Turkish tyranny, but have kept in touch with
Mecca on the one hand, and, through India, with
the Western world on the other. It should be
noticed that the first official appointment made by
the Shereef of Mecca after the revolt was that of
Omar Bey El Farouky, a member of one of the
noble Arab families of Baghdad, to be the Shereef's
representative in Cairo. Mecca knows Great Britain
best from what we have done for a century
past in the Persian Gulf and in India. Through
the same avenue also came Mecca's introduction
to Turkey's latest ally, and she soon learned to
distrust and despise Germany, whose evil deeds in
the Persian Gulf were as repugnant to the Arabs
as the tyranny of the Turk in Syria. Ever since
Germany tried forcibly to wrest territory from the
206 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
Sheikh of Koweit for the terminus of the Baghdad
Railway, and for her own ends stirred up Ibn Raschid
to precipitate war amongst the Arab tribes, Mecca
has been on its guard against Germany, and with
the aid of the powerful Ibn Saood a broad corridor
of tribal sympathies with Great Britain has been
kept open from Mesopotamia to Mecca.
Actions, especially with the Arabs, speak louder
than words. These sons of Ishmael will not often
reason with a foreigner, but I have noticed their
readiness to become the slaves of our medical
missionaries. Invitations from the heart of Arabia
reached the mission doctors at Koweit and Baghdad,
with offers of hospitality and assurances of a wel-
come to places where the foot of the " infidel " is
not generally allowed to tread. Britain's reputation
in Arabia was not dependent upon diplomacy and
could not be shattered by intrigues, for it was
established upon its righteous dealings for a
century past with the Arabs who were resident in
India, the Persian Gulf, and the Euphrates valley.
In addition to the regular communications which
are ordinarily maintained by the Arabs of Mesopo-
tamia with their kindred in Nejd, and Mecca, there
are two important pilgrim routes that start from
Nejif, near the Euphrates, and Koweit, in the
Persian Gulf. Some of the nomads also, like the
great Shammar camel-breeding tribe, migrate from
Arabia to the north in the summer, and claim the
right to extensive pasture lands as far north as the
vicinity of Mosul.
MESOPOTAMIA AND MECCA 207
The Arab revolt was definitely announced in
June 1916, but at the beginning of 1915 the Shereef
of Mecca consulted with the great Ibn Saood of
Nejd, and in November of the same year he sent
his son on a mission to this powerful chief, for he
dared not move against the Turks without the
sympathy and support of the Emir of Nejd. It
was the Mesopotamian Expedition that brought
Ibn Saood to the side of the Allies, and Captain
Shakespear sacrificed his life in leading the Arabs
of Nejd against the pro-Turkish armies of Ibn
There is still another reason why the Islamic
world is more or less affected by movements in
Mesopotamia. It is the land of holy places,
sacred shrines, and venerated Moslem tombs.
There are two sacred places near the banks of the
Euphrates which are second only in importance to
the sacred cities of Mecca and Medina. These are
the holy cities of Kerbela and Nejif, where were
enacted the tragedies commemorated by the Shiahs
everywhere, and in India by the Sunnis and Shiahs
alike in the passion play and festival of the tenth
day of Moharrem.
The Mujtahid of Kerbela is one of the most
influential leaders of the Shiah sect, yet he, with
many other distinguished leaders like the Aga
Khan, the Sultan of Zanzibar, the Sultan of Muscat,
the Nizam of Hyderabad, the Amir of Afghanistan,
and the Shah of Persia, deliberately refused to
supp6rt the military despotism of the Turks, and
208 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
actually took up arms in defence of the standards
of modern civilisation. The Mujtahid of Kerbela
sent a telegram to King George congratulating him
upon the British occupation of the city of Baghdad,
and the Arabic proclamation which was read to
the inhabitants was received with unbounded
enthusiasm in Mesopotamia. The proclamation
declared that our troops had entered Baghdad not
as conquerors, but as liberators, to restore to the
Arabs the heritage of their forefathers.
When I was last in Kerbela I enjoyed the
privilege of a conversation with the chief Mujtahid.
I happened to be visiting a former pupil of mine,
now the much-respected British Consular Agent of
Kerbela. The Mujtahid came into the consulate
whilst I was there, and in the course of conversation
remarked how great an admirer he was of the British
race. He knew nothing of our Army, and little of
our Navy, except what thousands of pilgrims that
came from India had told him ; but from all his
visitors he gathered the same impression, that the
British authorities were distinguished for their
honesty, truthfulness, and justice. He gave me two
illustrations from his own experience one, when
Sir E. O'Malley was sent all the way from Constan-
tinople to the city of Baghdad for the purpose of
giving a fair trial to a miserable Indian Moslem who
had murdered a fellow-pilgrim, when the busy
manager of the Imperial Ottoman Bank and other
leading Englishmen of the city were cited to form
the jury on this memorable occasion. What
MESOPOTAMIA AND MECCA 209
trouble and expense for the purpose of dealing justly
with a miserable outcast who happened to be a
British Indian subject, and what a contrast to the
corruption of the Turkish courts ! Then, also, he
reminded me that a former King of Oudh had, at
his demise, left the whole of his private fortune for
the endowment of the charities of Kerbela. The
annual income from these invested funds, amount-
ing to thousands of rupees, passed annually through
the British Consulate-General to the Consular
Agent at Kerbela, and was faithfully distributed
every year to the rightful claimants without the
smallest diminution or loss. Some of it could
easily have been " eaten," as the Arabic language
would say. " For all the officials of the Turkish
Empire," said the Mujtahid, " are gifted with
1 sticky fingers.' Whenever money has to pass
through their hands, and especially if it should
happen to be for charitable purposes, some of it
inevitably remains behind. Don't you remember,"
he said, " that the Sultan Abdul Hamid was once
watching a European conjurer who was supposed to
be swallowing silver spoons ? An ambassador by
his side remarked how wonderful it was. ' But,'
said the Sultan, ' we can do more wonderful things
in Turkey, for I once had a Minister of Marine who
swallowed a battleship. The money was provided,
the battleship never appeared, and the money dis-
appeared.' But," continued the Mujtahid, " the
money from India meets with no accidents " ; and
he congratulated me upon having established the
210 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
only British schools in Mesopotamia, " for," he
declared, " your pupil Mirza Hasan lives up to his
education, as an honourable representative of
This " Mecca " of the great Shiah sect, as it has
often been called, refused to respond to the Sultan's
" Jehad," and its attitude doubtless had some
influence upon the situation in Persia. If British
forces had failed promptly to appear in Mesopotamia
after the Turkish declaration of war, it is possible
that the lying reports of the downfall of the British
Empire, so sedulously circulated by the Turks,
would have obtained some measure of credence
amongst the Arabs, and the two great " Meccas "
of Islam might have been reluctantly compelled in
self-defence to act quickly and to take the irre-
vocable step of lending their religious sanction to
the Jehad, which would have given the whole
Moslem world the most solemn reason possible for
siding with our foes.
As far back as 1906 there were Germans who
openly declared they would make a tool of Islam
in the event of a world war, and with the aid of
its fanaticism would fashion the dynamite to
blow into the air the rule of the Western powers
from Morocco to Calcutta.
The great Pan-Islamic movement was set on foot
soon after the Kaiser proclaimed himself in
Damascus " the Defender of Islam." Fanatical
enthusiasts were then sent from Constantinople
to every Moslem state to stir up discontent, to
MESOPOTAMIA AND MECCA 211
promote the prestige of Turkey, and to prepare for
the great and terrible day when, at the Kaiser's
signal, a " Holy War " would massacre millions
in the East, while ruthless Huns made havoc of
civilisation in the West. Every effort was made to
flood Mohammedan lands with proclamations and
pamphlets printed in every Mohammedan tongue.
They not only emphasised the obligations of a
" Holy War " and described the downfall of the
British Empire, but they told of German guns
bombarding London from Antwerp, of Zeppelins
that flew over Petrograd armed with a powerful
magnet which snapped up the Czar ! To prove to
the incredulous that the Germans had really sub-
mitted to Islam, illustrations were published of the
ruined churches of Belgium which the Germans had
destroyed " upon their repudiation of the Christian
faith." This is the way the Turks endeavoured to
deceive their ignorant Moslem subjects. They and
their German masters made a cat's-paw of Islam
solely for the furtherance of their own ambitions.
" You must have made a mistake," said the
Kaiser to the Turks, u when you made Constanti-
nople the capital of the Mohammedan world. It
is too near Russia, too near the confines of Chris-
tendom. Ever since you came to Constantinople
the Ottoman Empire has been on the wane ; you are
out of touch with the Moslem world, and the most
flourishing Moslem communities are under the
protection of Great Britain. Let us crush the
British Empire and share the spoils between us.
212 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
Leave me to deal with Christendom ; give me
Constantinople and the highway I need through
Mesopotamia to the East, then I will make you
rulers of a Moslem Empire greater than any of
which you have ever dreamed. Cairo will make you
an ideal capital ; it is surrounded by Moslem lands,
it is near the sacred cities of Mecca, Medina,
Jerusalem, and Damascus, it stands in the centre
of the Moslem world. There is wealth in Egypt, the
Suez Canal is a gold mine, the Khedive will help us,
but we must first crush England ; together we can do
it, for I have the guns and you have the Khalifate.
Raise the standard of Islam, stir up the frenzy of a
' Holy War/ slay and spare not, for when the war is
holy, murder and robbery are no longer crimes."
Instead, however, of the anticipated revolution,
we had that marvellous response of loyalty from
India which astonished the world ; the tables were
turned upon our enemies. The Moslem world was
certainly up in arms, but it rose to defend us ;
princes and chiefs filled our Red Cross coffers with
munificent gifts, issued friendly proclamations, and
sent hundreds of thousands of Moslem troops to
the different theatres of war to fight for England's
cause. On the very day the British Indian troops
landed at Marseilles, a beautiful poem appeared in
The Times which told us why our Moslem subjects
were with us when Germany told the Sultan they
would surely be against us. It was written by Nawab
Nizamut Jung, the distinguished Indian Judge of
the High Court of Hyderabad, who in a private
MESOPOTAMIA AND MECCA 213
letter said : " The object of the poem is to give
expression to the real sentiments of the more
cultured among the Indians towards a nation to
whom they owe all that is best in life."
INDIA TO ENGLAND.
O England ! in thine hour of need,
When Faith's reward and Valour's meed
Is death or glory ;
When fate indites, with biting brand,
Clasped in each warrior's stiff 'ning hand,
A Nation's story ;
Though weak our hands, which fain would clasp
The warrior's sword with warrior's grasp,
On Victory's field ;
Yet turn, O mighty Mother ! turn
Unto the million hearts that burn
To be thy shield !
Thine equal justice, mercy, grace,
Have made a distant alien race
A part of thee !
'Twas thine to bid their souls rejoice,
When first they heard the living voice
Of Liberty !
Unmindful of their ancient name,
Their fathers' honour, glory, fame,
And sunk in strife
Thou found 'st them, whom thy touch hath made
Men, and to whom thy breath conveyed
A nobler life !
They, whom thy love hath guarded long,
They, whom thy care hath rendered strong
In love and faith,
Their heart-strings round thy heart entwine ;
They are, they ever will be thine,
In life in death !
214 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
When the Maharajah of Bikanir came to
London to receive the freedom of the City, he
" Those who will say that India is held by the
power of the sword do a grave injustice to Britain
and to India. No ; British rule in India rests on
much firmer foundations than force. It is based
on principles of justice and equity; humanity and
fair play. The most wondrous jewel of the British
Crown is held through the loyalty and devotion
of the people of my country, through the deep-
rooted affection and gratitude of millions of loyal
and grateful hearts."
Another well-known Indian also wrote in the
Observer the following striking words :
" The Imperial patriotism of India's 70,000,000
Moslems shines resplendently against the black
background of the Young Turkish folly. Con-
fronted with the one of the most painful dilemmas
in the annals of any community, they did not falter
in their duty to the Empire. On ground strewn
with their sacred shrines, thousands of them did
not hesitate for a moment to fight against men of
their own religion, carrying the banner of the Caliph
of Islam. No community within the Empire had
to pass through so fierce a trial or has stood the test
The greatest conflict of the centuries turned out
after all to be a " Holy War," though in a different
sense from what was intended by Germany when she
raised the standard of a Moslem Jehad. It was
MESOPOTAMIA AND MECCA 215
a war for great principles, for the liberties we
love, the heritage of our forefathers. It was a
struggle between new and barbarous conceptions
of " Kultur " and the well-known refinements of
MESOPOTAMIA UNDER THE TURKS
I shall never forget my first introduction to the
traditional site of man's primeval Paradise. I was
standing upon the deck of a British steamer pro-
ceeding northwards from Basra to Baghdad when
the captain exclaimed : "Mr Parfit, this is the
beginning of your new parish. There is the
Euphrates coming down on our left, and here is
the Tigris on the right, while before us we behold
Kurna, the traditional site of the Garden of Eden."
My heart sank within me, for I noticed that the
buildings on shore consisted only of mud dwellings,
and I was sadly disillusioned. I observed to the
captain : "If this is the Garden of Eden portion
of my parish, what will the rest of it be like ? " My
attention was drawn to a tall flag-staff, by the side
of which was a temporary structure of reed mats.
The captain informed me that it was the Town Hall
of the Garden of Eden, and the governor or
" mayor " had but one duty to perform : he collected
a tax that was levied upon every fruit-bearing palm.
There was a bright green nubbak tree farther along
MESOPOTAMIA UNDER THE TURKS 217
the bank, " which," said the captain, " the pilgrims
believe is the Tree of Knowledge in the midst of
the Garden ; but I don't mind telling you that my
father planted it thirty years ago."
The people seemed desperately poor ; they cried
out to us, as the steamer passed, to throw them a
little food on the shore, and the passengers hurled
bread and oranges from the deck of the steamer.
The inhabitants are not genuine Arabs, but belong
to a degraded class known as the Maadanis.
They were miserably clad, and the children clothed
in nothing more than sesame oil and a smile.
Those who knew Mesopotamia under the Turk
could sympathise with the exclamation of one of
our British Tommies. When our troops were
encamped at Kurna, after a disturbed, sleepless
night, he exclaimed to his fellow in the tent :
" Oh, Bill, I don't know how Adam and Eve got
on in this place with all these mosquitoes buzzing
about." "No, indeed," said Bill, " it wouldn't take
a flaming sword to drive me out of the Garden of
Eden." A Sheffield soldier who had been serving in
Mesopotamia was asked how he liked the country,
and replied : " They actually called it the Garden of
Eden, but you give me Shuffield ! " There was no
such thing as a paradise in Mesopotamia under
the Ottoman Turk, though from the luxuriant
vegetation, the abundance of water, the heat of the
climate, and the size of the fig-leaves it was un-
doubtedly an ideal place for our remote ancestors.
Mesopotamia was an entomologists' paradise,
218 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
for nothing seemed to flourish so profusely as the
vermin and insect life. An officer wrote home from
Kut describing the enormous scorpions that were
seen in the trenches. " A great black thing," he
said, " walked in with what looked like a young
scorpion on its back, which proved to be its spiked
tail bent over ready for action." In Baghdad we
used to hear the scorpions scrambling about in
our " serdabs " at night, and we had to be careful
when descending to the lower parts of the house
in the dark. We bottled sixty specimens one
winter. One of our servants was stung on his bare
feet as he was hurrying up the stairs when we had
visitors to dinner. He dropped the basin of soup,
and howled for an hour as though he was being
Our church services were held in a large " serdab,"
or semi-underground basement, and one morning,
just after the starting of a hymn, one of the men
came forward to tell me there was a scorpion just
over my head. We stopped the service for a few
minutes while the odious creature was being
removed with the aid of a pair of tongs and a
dustpan. On another occasion a carpenter was
assisting me to prepare my outfit for a long overland
journey. The bell tent was unpacked, and as I was
adjusting the central pole into the socket a sleepy
scorpion crawled out and stung my hand. The
carpenter immediately sent off his boy to fetch a
kind of cactus leaf, which I vigorously rubbed over
the wound, and was quickly relieved from the
MESOPOTAMIA UNDER THE TURKS 219
intense pain. Our doctors have met with fatal
cases amongst small children, resulting from a
I was sitting reading one evening in my drawing-
room when a centipede crawled out of the garden-
pot by my side ; and on another occasion, as I was
getting into bed, a centipede fell out of the blanket.
We have often caught them crawling up the walls
of the dining-room ; but the scorpions could only
be found in the darkest corners of the lower rooms,
and if placed in the sun they would run round and
round in a circle and apparently sting themselves
to death. Mosquitoes were numerous enough, but
the sand-flies were everywhere ; the common
house-fly attacked you in battalions, and a species
that greatly resembled it was gifted with a more
piercing bite than the average mosquito. Someone
has truly said that " the tiniest little insect in
Mesopotamia night and day faithfully does its
bit." When, in summer, according to custom, we
dined upon the roof of the house, our table was
often covered with a multitude of winged insects,
varying in size from the largest beetle to the
One strange result of the continuous floods was
the plague of frogs. They literally swarmed by
the million in the swamps and pools. They were
possessed of an astonishing Variety of voices, so that
you could hear their squeaking, squealing, singing,
and croaking long before you came in sight of the
reeds or could smell the odours of their watery home.
220 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
Mesopotamia has an evil name amongst medical
specialists as being the home of the bubonic plague,
which has often spread to other lands from these
dreaded regions. Our British Mission doctors were
the only medical men who dared, on three separate
occasions within twenty years, when the Turks
fled from the city, to stay behind and grapple with
the desolating ravages of cholera. I once accom-
' panied our doctor to a large village near Mosul,
where he found 60 per cent, of the villagers suffering
from ophthalmia, and at least 10 per cent, of them
had lost their sight. There was not a single munici-
pal hospital or dispensary in the whole vilayet.
I have often listened to the bitterest complaints
launched by all sections of the population against
the Turkish tax-collectors. A village was ordered
to pay one-tenth of its produce to the Government.
The tax-collectors, with their escort, were billeted
on the villagers for weeks. Worthless receipts
were frequently foisted upon the chiefs, figures and
dates were constantly tampered with by Govern-
ment clerks, with the net result that the greater
part of the village produce was appropriated by the
tax-collectors, and the amount that was left to the
villagers was barely sufficient to clothe them in
rags and to enable them to keep body and soul
I was standing one day on the top of a high
mound in the midst of the ruins at Niffer, when the
excavator by my side pointed out to me a little
battle that was taking place in the distance. One
MESOPOTAMIA UNDER THE TURKS 221
of the Arab tribes from the south was raiding
another Arab tribe from the north, and thousands
of sheep were being driven back behind the front
line of the marauders. This was a reprisal raid for
what had happened a fortnight before, when the
northern tribe had raided the southerners and suc-
ceeded in stealing about thirty of their camels.
The excavator assured me that these incidents were
of common occurrence in the central plains of
Mesopotamia. There was no security for life and
property, no government outside the big towns,
and no attempt to exercise authority for the
preservation of law and order. On my return
journey from Niffer to Diwanieh the Zaptiah guards
preceded us in some places with their rifles presented
at the bushes on both sides of the road, ready to
receive a surprise attack from concealed tribesmen.
On the previous day a Turkish official returning
from Niffer had been stripped bare of all his posses-
sions by these irrepressible robbers.
On this same journey, when I was returning from
the holy city of Nejif to the town of Kufa, on the
banks of the Euphrates, I saw six stalwart robbers
sallying forth to attack a caravan that was known
to be on its way to the shrine. One of the robbers
caught hold of a lad who was driving a donkey,
flung him aside, and made off with his prize. The
lad screamed after him, " Don't steal my donkey ;
it is all I have in the world, and I have to support
my widowed mother. Don't steal my donkey ! "
A Zaptiah guard was riding by my side, so I quickly
222 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
drew his attention to the robbery ; but, with a shrug
of his shoulders, he said he dared not interfere with
those men, for they belonged to a gang of some
forty robbers who shared their spoils with the
Turkish officials. I started off at a gallop, caught
up the robber, threatened him with a whipping,
and was able to deliver back the donkey to the
Early one morning, whilst struggling through an
Arabic lesson with my very fat, dreary pundit, we
were startled by a tremendous amount of screaming
and shouting from the direction of the river Tigris.
I flung my book into the lap of my learned tormentor
and rushed to the window of my study, just in time
to catch sight of the old Baghdad pontoon bridge,
which had broken away from its moorings and was
tearing down the Tigris with a group of howling
pedestrians upon it. The river had risen quite
rapidly during the night ; the force of the current
had broken the chains and was carrying away the
bridge at a speed of about seven miles an hour.
It came to a standstill at the end of the reach, where
the terrified passengers were able to escape by
wading to the shore. At the request of the Wali
governor, the captain of one of the British steamers
got up steam and went down the river to tow back
the runaway bridge. It was a very dilapidated old
thing, full of holes and worn-out planks, so that
accidents were frequently reported, and to cross the
Tigris by the bridge of boats was more dangerous
to equestrians or heavily laden porters than a
MESOPOTAMIA UNDER THE TURKS 223
short voyage from bank to bank in the curious
An enterprising governor at length decided to
raise a fund for the construction of a new bridge,
so he set to work in accordance with the well-
established traditions of Turkish administrators.
He mustered his military officers, police officials,
and tax-collectors; he gave them authority to
scour the villages with whips and thongs, to beat
the poor, threaten the rich, imprison the obstinate ;
to help themselves to all they might need for
commission or incidental expenses, and to bring
back plenty of wood, with a goodly sum of money,
for the construction of the new pontoon bridge.
By compulsory deductions from the salaries of
all Government officials and by every kind of ex-
tortion the governor succeeded in collecting about
40,000 of so-called " voluntary contributions/'
He spent about 4000 on the labour and material
he was obliged to pay for, and pocketed the rest
for his arduous labours in connection with this most
When the bridge was completed, a special day
was appointed for a grand opening ceremony, to
which all the leading citizens were invited. Every
corner of the bridge was bedecked with Turkish
flags, and inharmonious bands blared away
furiously from sunrise to sunset. In the early
morning of this great festival a telegram arrived
from Constantinople announcing the deposition of
the governor, forbidding him to take part in the
224 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
festival, and commanding the General of the Forces
to conduct the opening ceremonies. The governor
had perhaps offended too many influential people
by excessive exactions, and no doubt his superiors
were informed of the immense profits he had recently
been accumulating, so it was evidently a favourable
time to appease the victims of his oppression and
to recall him to Constantinople, where he would have
to disgorge before securing another appointment.
Three days after this great festival the ex-
governor was starting off with his caravan for the
overland journey to the capital, when he was
molested by a number of courageous citizens who
began to steal back from the deposed governor
the horses, mules, and other " presents " which he
had extorted from them in the form of bribes.
They succeeded after a scuffle in getting back some
of their property, and the discomfited governor
hurried away before other citizens should get wind
of his departure.
The great cities of Baghdad and Basra were
formerly surrounded by ramparts erected as a
protection against the Arab tribes who perpetually
maintained a state of war with the Turkish Govern-
ment all the time it was established in Mesopotamia.
Midhat Pasha was a great Turkish reformer, who
unsuccessfully attempted to revive the waning
fortunes of the Ottoman Empire, and in spite of
his large army corps at Baghdad failed to subdue
the Arabs or secure their friendship. He de-
molished the ramparts around Baghdad, and was
MESOPOTAMIA UNDER THE TURKS 225
obliged to sell the bricks in order to provide the pay
for his rebellious soldiery. The dilapidated bastion
at the south gate and the miserably dirty moat
around the city were all that remained in 19 14 of
the old Turkish defences. A still more interesting
monument which the Turks left behind was to be
seen in Basra. When the ramparts of the native
town were removed, there was one old-fashioned
piece of artillery mounted high upon a corner of
the thick mud walls. The Turkish governor con-
cluded it would be too expensive and too difficult
to remove, so the unsightly mass remained, and
became an object of reverence and worship for
the superstitious villagers who passed it whenever
they brought their produce to the Basra bazaars.
The monuments that commemorate the Ottoman
dynasty are so few and are so rapidly disappearing
that one feels justified in recording one's indelible
impressions of Mesopotamia in the golden prime
of the gentle Turk.
Many of the pre-war peculiarities of the country
will fortunately survive the expulsion of the Turk,
though even the climate may undergo some
modification when the barren wastes have been
transformed into fertile fields.
The " ark of bulrushes " is still to be seen at
Baghdad. The cauldron-shaped river craft called
" guff as " are constructed of branches of the date
palm covered with bitumen. They are very cleverly
plied, sometimes by two oarsmen, one rowing
one way and one the other ; but if by one man,
226 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
then he must ply the oar first in one direction and
then in the other, or else the coracle would go round
and round without making any progress.
Most of the busy streets where trade was carried
on were covered with bricked arches or reed matting
to protect the open-fronted shops from the glare
and heat of the sun. The labyrinth of bazaars at
Baghdad was more famous, more interesting, and
more Oriental than any of the streets of Damascus.
In accordance with the Moslem religion, the
Arabs are forbidden to indulge in intoxicating
liquors, so they meet together in the coffee-houses
for the purpose of sipping small cups of coffee,
smoking their narghilehs, gossiping with their
friends, or playing at chess, dominoes, and dice.
Some of the arabesque work on the chimney-pieces
around the open grates, where the coffee is stewed
in a variety of beaked copper pots, is extremely
The climate of Mesopotamia is better on the whole
than that of the greater part of India, though the
intense heat of the summer is notorious. The
average maximum temperature was officially regis-
tered as 122 F. in the shade, and it dropped in the
winter to a minimum at night of 14 below freezing-
point. On one occasion a terrific hailstorm reduced
the temperature in four hours by twenty degrees,
and some of the hailstones measured two inches in
The heat at Basra is almost as damp and un-
pleasant as the heat of Bombay, but at Baghdad
MESOPOTAMIA UNDER THE TURKS 227
the summer heat is probably as dry as the atmo-
sphere of the Soudan. The thermometer at Mosul
often registered ten degrees lower than the tem-
perature at Baghdad, but the city itself is unpleas-
antly hot, especially at night. The streets are
narrow and the houses are built of a grey, porous
marble which seems to retain the heat for a much
longer time after sunset than the mud walls and
brick buildings of Baghdad.
The inhabitants of Baghdad always made use of
a Turkish word when referring to the so-called
desert around the city. It was commonly known
as " Chole," which means a wilderness or desert
place ; but the people of Mosul always used the
Arabic word " Rabia " = spring, or verdure, to
describe the surrounding country. This choice
of words appropriately expressed the difference
between the undulating green pasture-lands of
Assyria and the flat, parched plains of Babylonia.
There are very few olive trees in Mesopotamia, but
extensive fields of millet and sesame are to be found
everywhere ; the poorer Arabs extracted oil from
sesame and used it for their lamps. Rice is cul-
tivated along the banks of the Khabur, and more
extensively in the marsh-lands near the lower
reaches of the Euphrates.
A curious feature of the soil in some districts
around Mosul is the enormous quantity of truffles
it contains. It is only necessary to scratch the
ground for an inch or two anywhere, and the
truffles can easily be found. Hemp and tobacco
228 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
are cultivated in considerable quantities. Vast
areas are covered with wild liquorice, a rough
species of thyme, and the caperberry bushes. The
sumach is a favourite tree of great commercial
value ; the white poplar is chiefly grown for the
purpose of providing beams for the roofs of houses ;
the willow trees and the tamarisk grow plenti-
fully by the waterside. There is no place like
Mesopotamia for dates, melons, and cucumbers.
I have seen two water-melons large enough to make
a small donkey-load, and I once measured a cucum-
ber a yard and a half long. There are plenty of
oranges, sweet limes, lemons, pomegranates, quinces,
loquots, and small quantities of almost every kind
of fruit, nuts, and vegetables to be found in Western
The bird life of Mesopotamia was particularly
interesting. There were large quantities of quail,
snipe, partridges, bustards, sand-grouse, wild ducks
and geese, immense flocks of black crows, and an
equal number of storks. I have also seen pelicans,
flamingoes, and herons in the south, great quantities
of ring-doves at Baghdad, plenty of beautiful jays,
and a great variety of smaller birds. There was
not much in the way of animal life beyond a few
hyenas, wolves, gazelles, foxes, and wild boar ;
but the nights were made hideous by the yelping
of innumerable jackals.
Mesopotamia was always a fascinating country in
spite of the Ottoman Turk, who did his best to make
it one of the most desolate places on earth.
THE LAND OF FLOODS
The late Dr Driver believed that " the true origin
of the Biblical narrative of the flood is to be found
in the Babylonian story " discovered at Nineveh
by George Smith in 1872. The story evidently
assumed a Hebrew complexion and became a
symbolical embodiment of ethical and religious
truth. It marks a new epoch in the early history
of mankind. A judicial motive is assigned for
it ; it becomes a judgment upon corrupt and de-
generate mankind. Noah, on the other hand, is
the type of a righteous man a man worthy of the
seal of God's approval. Rescued from the flood
of waters, he becomes the second father of humanity,
and inaugurates for it a new era.
Mesopotamia has often been described by British
soldiers as a land of floods and mud. The floods
have disappeared with the exit of the Turks, but
the mud remains. Some of the floods were ordinary
inundations, some were extraordinary, and some
were unnatural in the sense that they were brought
about by evil intent or by ignorance and carelessness.
230 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
The country was liable to ordinary floods every
springtime with the melting of the snows on the
mountains of Armenia and Kurdistan, when certain
districts of Lower Mesopotamia were invariably
In 1830 the plague which carried away half the
population of Baghdad was followed by a fearful
flood that destroyed 7000 houses in one night, and
it was estimated that 15,000 people perished. In
1896 an exceptional rise in the river broke down
the banks of the Tigris above Baghdad and flooded
about 400 square miles of land around the city.
It was strange to see so many sailing-ships on the
" desert," when the Persian caravans were conveyed
in boats for miles across the flood. The " serdabs "
of the Baghdad houses contained five or six feet of
water, and 1200 of the smaller houses collapsed.
My own house on the river bank was substantially
built, with walls that in places were six feet thick, but
it developed a crack from top to bottom. While
it was being repaired I took a holiday and went on
a trip to Basra in the river steamer. I well remem-
ber noticing that in some places the villagers suffered
terribly by the ravages of the floods, losing all their
sheep and oxen, and clinging for dear life to some
small mound that preserved them from the rising
waters. Many of them were taken on board the
river steamer as we went by, and they told us how
large numbers of their people had been drowned
by the inundations. At times it was impossible
to see land of any sort on either side of the river, as
THE LAND OF FLOODS 231
the flat country was covered with water as far as
the eye could reach, and I wondered how the
navigating officers could distinguish the main
channel of the stream. Mesopotamia was, in fact,
transformed into Katopotamia, for in many places
the two great rivers had joined together. More
than a million date palms in the vilayet of Basra
were destroyed by that flood.
It is a curious fact that a similar extraordinary
inundation took place in November 1914, immedi-
ately after the declaration of war with Turkey and
on the very night that the British residents in
Baghdad were interned by the authority of the
Wali governor. The British prisoners were all
taken to the Residency, and that night their sleep
was disturbed by many distressing noises in the
town. Sir John Jackson's chief engineer was one
of the prisoners. He was aroused from his slum-
bers by a Turkish official, a carriage was provided
for him, and he was taken around the ramparts by
the authorities, who begged him to tell them what
could be done. He could only reply that they had
asked for his advice when it was too late. They
had received telegraphic warning from Mosul that
heavy rains had fallen and an exceptionally high
rise of the river was on its way, but nothing had
been done until the river had burst through the
banks. The desert was covered with water, the
gardens were flooded, and houses were tumbling
down on every side, whilst the inhabitants were
scrambling forth into the streets with what little
232 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
possessions they could rescue from destruction.
The next morning there was great lamentation in
the city of Baghdad, and the superstitious quickly
declared that it was a judgment upon the authori-
ties for interning the British residents and for fight-
ing against their friends the English.
The Turks, aided by German engineers, utilised
the rivers of Mesopotamia as a powerful weapon
for waging war against us. They would hardly
neglect such an opportunity for offence and defence,
and they were no doubt responsible for the " ex-
ceptional floods " we heard about when our troops
were fighting for Kut '1 Amara, since for fifteen
years the German surveyors had been marking
out every feature of these battlefields in Lower
In 1898 I started out with a caravan from
Baghdad in the month of April, to travel along the
busy pilgrim road to Babylon and Kerbela, intend-
ing to halt for the night at a well-known khan
five hours' distance from the city. After about
three hours' travelling we found the road was
blocked by a flood which compelled us to make a
detour that lengthened our journey by four hours,
and our destination could only be reached by crossing
a rough pontoon bridge hastily constructed by the
considerate Turks for the benefit of the thousands
of pilgrims who had to pass that way. We were
getting ravenously hungry, as our food was locked
up in the mule-panniers that were securely tied
on the backs of the baggage animals. We did not
THE LAND OF FLOODS 233
anticipate such a long journey, and dared not stop
to unpack our mules lest we should be benighted
upon a road infested with robbers ; so we were
deeply gratified when we espied the bridge, and,
without the slightest demur, we quickly paid the
heavy toll levied by polite Turkish officials and
breathed a deep sigh of relief when we found our-
selves safe at last on the other side of the flood.
What wonderful people these Turks are ! how polite
when they rob you ! We were actually blessing
them for making that bridge when we heard a
group of Arabs cursing them for having created the
flood. The Turks knew the river was rising, and
the pilgrim season was in full swing, so they made a
breach in the banks of the Euphrates and flooded a
depression within twenty miles of the Tigris. They
constructed a bridge for a few hundred liras, and
reaped thousands of pounds profit by the tolls
taken from the pilgrims, besides sharing the spoils
with the robbers who stripped the travellers who
were benighted along the roads.
The deep, soft mud of the rainy season, the
slippery roads and slimy marshes that remained
when the floods had subsided, seriously impeded all
pedestrian traffic and made our military operations
peculiarly trying and difficult. But there was some
consolation in the fact that, when the river was high,
the oozing of the waters through the soft soil had
the effect of driving the ill-clad Turks from their
flooded trenches. The " Nazeez " is an interesting
feature of the Mesopotamian lowlands. Small lakes
234 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
and numerous pools will quite suddenly arise out
of the earth like a mirage, and, in answer to your
question as to where it comes from, the Arab will
simply tell you it is the " Nazeez," which appears in
the springtime with the rise of the river. He
cannot explain that it percolates from the Tigris
through the subsoil, and appears above the surface
wherever the land is lower than the level of the
river. This phenomenon was probably as much
responsible for the flooding of the Turkish trenches
at Senna-i-yat as the north-west wind referred to
in General Lake's dispatch.
The best drinking-water in Mesopotamia is the
muddiest. I do not mean that it is the mud which
gives it its quality and flavour, but what I mean is
that, because the whole of the drinking-water of
Mesopotamia is obtained from the Euphrates and
Tigris, this water is at its best when the rivers are
rising, just after heavy rains. The current is then
swift, the pollutions are quickly carried away, and
the water, though the colour of pea-soup, is far
less dangerous than when, in the autumn, it looks
beautifully clear. Every household in Old Baghdad
was provided with a large water -jar of somewhat
porous clay. The river water was emptied into
the jar, the muddy sediment settled to the bottom,
a small jar beneath caught the drippings from
the larger jar, and provided the family with spark-
ling, cool water direct from the old-established
The whole of Mesopotamia at certain seasons of
THE LAND OF FLOODS 235
the year is a mass of mud, and after, a good shower
of rain the streets of Baghdad were impassable
for pedestrians. The Europeans generally hired
donkeys to take them through the mud from their
homes to their offices. An English merchant told
me one day that he had been calling upon a saga-
cious Consul-General who, after a lengthy discussion
on a small matter of business, was anxious to get
rid of his visitor. He suddenly turned the conver-
sation to the subject of the mud. " Really," said
the Consul, "is it true that the streets are so
appalling ? I have not seen them. Let us go and
look at them." So the two walked out of the office,
past the military guard, to the gate of the Consulate.
" Terrible, terrible ! " exclaimed the Consul ; " how-
ever did you get here ? Oh, this is your donkey,
of course a sturdy beast. Let me help you on, and
a safe journey to you through this awful mud !
Good-bye good-bye ! "
On another occasion, after a week's confinement
to the house through heavy rain, the sun shone
gloriously in the afternoon, and the doctor and I
decided to go for a walk. The middle of the road
was still a mass of deep, watery mud, but a very
narrow path had been trodden down on either side ;
so we crawled along by the walls of the houses, aided,
by our walking-sticks and the doctor's servant.
Presently we reached a spot where the path dis-
appeared and the mud for fifty yards was knee-deep.
We saw it was better further on, so the servant, with
bare legs, offered to carry us across on his back.
236 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
I urged the doctor to go first, and when the servant
reached the middle of the morass the burden and
the mud together were too much for him and he
began to totter. The doctor besought him to stand
still and called to me for help. I was so convulsed
with laughter at the sight of the doctor doubled up
on the back of a tottering Arab in the midst of a
sea of mud that I could think of no way of rescuing
him. When I recovered a little I ran back and
found two bare -legged Arabs, who relieved the ser-
vant of his burden and afterwards carried me to
the other side. We returned another way by a
slightly better road.
A much more serious incident occurred when
I was travelling a few miles north of Baghdad.
Three Zaptiahs were escorting our small caravan to
a village where we were to spend the night, and one
of them suggested a short cut that would save us
a journey of an hour and a half. The others
protested that the mud swamp which intervened
was impassable, but the Zaptiah said he knew a
path, and persisted in making a trial while we skirted
the swamp and clung to firmer ground. Ere long
we saw in the distance our venturesome friend
sinking deeper and deeper into the mire, and one of
our Zaptiahs galloped off to the village to find help
to rescue him. It took them nearly all night to
extricate him, but his horse had to be abandoned,
and it perished in the bog.
THE TRANSFORMATION OF MESOPOTAMIA
" A magic wand/' wrote an officer from Baghdad,
" has apparently been waved over the once dreary
wilderness of Mesopotamia, for the most remarkably
rapid transformation ever witnessed on earth has
taken place in the land of Irak."
More than twenty years ago I was lost for four
hours on one of the great swamps near the lower
reaches of the Euphrates. I was travelling in a
small open boat which my Arab boatman dexter-
ously punted along the narrow waterways between
the tall reeds. At one end of his punting rod he
had fixed a three-pronged spear, with which he
cleverly caught the fish that can always be seen
near the surface of these shallow, muddy marshes.
He became so excited in chasing some rather lively
specimens that, just before sunset, he lost his bear-
ings in the swamp. We had a somewhat terrifying
experience for the next few hours, punting our way
in pitch darkness, until at length we emerged from
the reeds and found a foothold for the night on a
little island that contained a village of reed huts.
238 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
It was in these neglected swamps that British
troops fought their amphibious battles. Thou-
sands of native " heliums " had to be constructed
and covered with armour plate. They were fre-
quently carried shoulder-high, as the troops ad-
vanced from one swamp to another, and ofttimes
the soldiers were obliged to wade for miles knee-
deep in mud or up to their armpits in water.
Immediately after the capture of Kut '1 Amara
thousands of labourers and artisans were brought
from India, who, with many thousands of Arabs,
were employed in repairing the banks of the great
rivers and draining the swamps, with the result that
there have been no floods in Lower Mesopotamia
since the British occupation of Baghdad. A huge
embankment twenty miles long was constructed
not far from Basra to protect an area of forty-eight
square miles where, with the aid of hundreds of
professional farmers and gardeners from Madras,
wheat-fields, vegetable gardens, dairy farms, and
poultry farms began to nourish in a verdant plain,
which, until a year before, had been a malarious
swamp for centuries. The great new embank-
ments at Zubeir and Shaiba protect the Arab date
gardens and so enormously benefit the landowners
of a district that was annually inundated by floods.
A considerable extension of the date groves is now
possible, and profitable vegetable gardens already
flourish in the new date plantations.
There are nearly two hundred varieties of dates in
Mesopotamia, and the most luscious kinds cannot
TRANSFORMATION OF MESOPOTAMIA 239
possibly be shipped to Europe. Those of the poorest
quality are exported in mass for the distilleries of
the West, while some better-quality dates have
recently been utilised for the manufacture of sugar.
A perfectly wonderful transformation has taken
place at the port of Basra. Under the Turkish
administration a vast amount of time was wasted
by the primitive methods employed in discharging
the cargoes of the ocean-going steamers. These
were obliged to anchor in mid-stream while native
boats came alongside into which the goods were
gradually discharged and leisurely carried to the
Custom House. The wearisome process of going
to and fro with small loads generally occupied
eight or nine days before all the cargo was dis-
charged and the ship reloaded. Now, however,
there are miles upon miles of magnificent wharves
fitted with powerful electric moving cranes, so that
all the large steamers can come alongside to be
emptied and reladen in as many hours only as it
took days to deal with one steamer by the methods
of the old regime. There are a large hospital and
other fine new buildings at Niameh, below Basra,
and the port has grown from the Asshar Creek to
a distance of nearly five miles through Machina to
Maghil, where a magnificent dockyard, with three
wet basins and three slipways, was constructed
for the repair of the large ocean vessels and the
river steamers, or for the reconstruction of the
There were no carriage roads in Mesopotamia
240 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
when I lived there, except one in Basra, where a
beginning was made by the Turks ; but for years
the road remained blocked at both ends by the
mud walls of the Arab date gardens. Hundreds of
miles of metalled roads have now been constructed
all over the country, and Basra can boast of many
excellent carriage roads and of one magnificent
concrete road four and a half miles long that joins
Basra to Maghil. Electric cars are running, there
is a telephone system larger than that of Bombay,
and electric light has been installed in all the Tigris
cities. This last improvement is not a piece of
military extravagance, as some have supposed, for
the light has been supplied to the inhabitants of
Baghdad, for example, at a price which makes
lighting by electricity cheaper than by the oil which
was formerly obtained from the refinery at Abadan,
and the installations have proved to be com-
The town Arabs of the great cities are now
taking kindly to factory life, for in addition to the
oil refinery, the dockyards, and the repairing sheds,
there are ice factories and soda-water factories in
all the big towns, also cloth mills and clothing
factories at Baghdad and Basra, which turned out
most of the khaki that was worn by the troops and
the labour corps in Mesopotamia.
The much-needed sanitation was speedily taken
in hand, and the sanitary inspector from the city of
Exeter transformed the dirty streets of Baghdad
into wholesome thoroughfares and banished the
TRANSFORMATION OF MESOPOTAMIA 241
poisonous smells that formerly guided a stranger
to the gate of the Government Serai. An anti-fly
crusade was carried on with such marked success
that in 191 9 I was told by an officer from Meso-
potamia that there was hardly a fly to be seen in
Basra. When this information reached me I was
in the city of Cairo, where a callous municipality
still dumps its rubbish near the Kasr-1-Nil barracks,
and where every Effendi carries a fly-flip to protect
him from the most pernicious plague of Egypt.
We have never had a free hand in Egypt, and
Mesopotamia can now give points to the village
Omdehs of the Nile valley. Some time ago I was
presented with a poetic alphabet on Mesopotamia,
one verse of which expresses the opinion of our
troops before the inception of the anti-fly crusade :
J is the Jam, with the label that lies,
And says that in Paris it took the first prize ;
But out here we use it for catching the flies
That abound in Mesopotamia.
These magical performances of the Civil Com-
missioner began at Basra, but the same great work
of reconstruction tarried not, as in Western lands,
for the cessation of hostilities ; it followed hard
behind the victorious armies under General Maude.
At Kut 1 Amara a young " political officer "
collected all the skilled masons who had been
employed by the Germans on their Baghdad
"railroad of death" and speedily constructed an
imposing colonnade bazaar along the river front.
242 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
He re-roofed the dilapidated bazaars, repaired the
mosques, erected baths, flour-mills, and ice fac-
tories; made new roads, widened and named the
old narrow streets, so that Townshend Road,
Delamain Road, Norfolk Street, and the like
preserve to-day the glorious memory of its brave
defenders. Every shoal or mud-bank in the Tigris
was converted into a vegetable garden, and while
the women pounded rice or winnowed the corn
their menfolk were being drilled by an Arab
sergeant to English words of command. The
only excitement in the old days for the inhabitants
of Amara was the weekly arrival of the river
steamboats, but immediately after the British
occupation this little town became one of the
busiest places on the Tigris. British officers called
it the " Brighton of Mesopotamia," for the fine
river front of well-built, uniform houses, with its
popular Parade, presented an imposing appearance,
and it became recognised as the most delightful
place on the river. The old port was deepened
and enlarged, and, in order to prevent the Tigris
water from being wasted in the Jehaila Canal, the
badly constructed entrance was considerably im-
proved. Thousands of Arabs and Sabeans obtained
employment in the enormous repairing sheds, where
all kinds of motors, trucks, ambulances, aeroplanes,
and locomotives were undergoing repairs. The
MacMunn Bridge at Amara is one of the finest of
the many new bridges constructed in Mesopotamia.
It is 750 feet long, and the movable central portion
TRANSFORMATION OF MESOPOTAMIA 243
can be opened or closed in four and a half minutes.
There were only five bridges over the Diala River
and only one in Basra when I lived in Mesopotamia ;
now every creek in Basra has been bridged, the
Royal Engineers have thrown 75 new bridges
across the Diala, and over 200 new bridges have
been constructed across the rivers and creeks of
Some of the most striking changes are noticeable
upon the tortuous Tigris, now no longer dismal and
dangerous as heretofore, but teeming with river
craft of all kinds ; shallow - draught gunboats
policing 700 miles of waterways crowded with
transports, hospital ships, merchant steamers, and
innumerable motor boats. The British inland
fleet in 1919 consisted of 331 transport steamers,
31 hospital vessels, 416 motor boats and motor
craft, 46 miscellaneous craft, 624 transport barges,
and 162 special barges. In pre-war days there
were only six or seven steamers upon the river,
whereas in 1919 there were 824 vessels flying the
British flag, and 786 barges. It is estimated that the
goods landed by the Turks in 1913 at the Baghdad
Custom House did not exceed a daily average of
100 tons, whereas in 191 9 it was possible for the
military authorities to land by rail and water
2400 tons daily at Baghdad.
The most difficult portion of the river for naviga-
tion is called " The Narrows," which begin at
Kalah-Salah, near Ezra's tomb, where many hairpin
bends of the winding river add to the difficulties
244 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
created by its extreme narrowness. With the rise
of the waters in the springtime it frequently
happened that the whole of this district became
completely flooded and presented the appearance
of a great inland sea. The navigators of the river
steamers found it difficult to keep to the channel
of the river, and were sometimes able to ignore
the current and steam straight ahead, with a man
wading in front to gauge the depth of the water.
The rise and fall of the Tigris, however, take place
very rapidly, and a ship which had wandered from
the river course would run the risk of getting
stranded and find itself on dry land at some dis-
tance from the channel. The whole length of these
difficult " Narrows " is now adequately lighted
by a special electrical installation, and everything
possible has been done, here as elsewhere, to
f acilitate the navigation of the Tigris. The steamers
now travel up and down this difficult and tortuous
current with two barges instead of one, with less
anxiety to the navigator and with much greater
speed and safety than in former days.
Every port in the Persian Gulf has profited
enormously by the revival of trade with Meso-
potamia. There has been a steady increase in the
number of sailing-boats visiting Basra, and the
famous shipbuilding yards of Koweit are striving
to double their output. Koweit may very possibly
become the most important port for Mesopotamia,
as preparations are being made to erect suitable
accommodation for the largest ocean-going steamers,
TRANSFORMATION OF MESOPOTAMIA 245
and plans have been prepared for the construction
of a railway from Koweit to Basra. A powerful
suction dredger has attempted to improve the
channel across the " Bar," where a semaphore
station has been established at a cost of 5833.
Owing to the folly of some of the Sultan's
stewards in charge of his crown lands near the
Euphrates, the main channel of the great river
running through Babylon was generally dry in the
summer months. A magnificent barrage was com-
pleted just before the outbreak of war by Sir John
Jackson's engineers, with a view to controlling the
" Hindiah flood " and supplying water for the ruined
date gardens of Babylonia. The Turks, however,
neglected to make use of this barrage, and just
before the capture of Baghdad they attempted to
destroy it, but were prevented from doing so by
the Arabs of Kerbela, who fought against them and
drove them away. A month later numbers of
agricultural officials and experts in irrigation
arrived from India. The difficulty of instructing
the landowners and peasants in proper methods of
irrigation was at once taken in hand. Over 100
neglected canals were cleared of silt and new ones
made, culverts were constructed, and 300,000 acres
of fertile soil were scientifically irrigated for the
first time in the history of Mesopotamia, with the
remarkable result that a record crop was reaped
early in the summer, and nearly half a million tons
of grain became available for the Army and the
inhabitants of Mesopotamia. In addition to these
246 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
initial experiments in irrigation, a large area of fertile
land was subsequently brought under cultivation
near the banks of the Diala River, on the Khalis
The cultivators were given every possible en-
couragement, receiving advances in cash as well as
credit for the seed that was supplied, the cattle, the
motor pumps, the ploughs and other implements
which they needed for their work. These advances
in 1919 amounted to 143,440, and the report that
was issued by Sir John Hewett states : " There is
no ground whatever for the suggestion that Army
funds were expended with a desire to provide for
post-war developments : they were uniformly
expended for the primary object of securing the
efficiency and comfort of the Army." These
agricultural experiments saved the British tax-
payer, in 1918, 143,250 by growing the grain that
would otherwise have been purchased for the
Army, and in the same year there was also a saving
of 121,200 for the chopped straw that had to be
provided for the transport animals. This wise
provision for local supplies was a great relief to
India, where there was a shortage of grain on account
of the failure of the monsoon of 1918. It also
released a considerable portion of valuable tonnage,
it provided for the 80,000 Armenian and Syrian
refugees encamped near Bakuba, and it saved the
inhabitants of Mesopotamia and Persia from in-
evitable famine and consequent starvation. If
the wise men in Europe had exercised the same
TRANSFORMATION OF MESOPOTAMIA 247
amount of foresight as the military spendthrifts
of Mesopotamia, they would have saved millions of
lives as well as the millions of pounds spent to bring
from a distance the food that could easily have
been grown near at hand.
There was an immense political advantage in
bringing some degree of prosperity to the fanatical
inhabitants of a conquered country. One old
Arab sheikh was heard to say : " No other govern-
ment but the British would take the trouble to
bother about our water supplies while they were
fighting a big war.'" The official reports also
declared that the health of the troops was largely
improved by an adequate supply of much-needed
green vegetables and other fresh provisions ; they
were, in fact, preserved from scurvy and beri-beri, \
which wrought such havoc amongst the forces and
labour corps in the early days of the Mesopotamian
Twenty-five years ago I took a photograph of a
group of reed-mat dwellings on the banks of the
Karun River near Mohammerah, where to-day are
the magnificent offices and buildings of the Anglo-
Persian Oil Company. In addition to these offices
there are other groups of buildings and oil-tanks
connected with the refinery farther south, at Abadan,
which cover an area of over two square miles of land,
where nearly 9000 men are constantly employed.
The crude oil is brought from seven different wells
through 200 miles of pipe line. It was twenty
years ago that I also secured photographs of some
248 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
of the primitive oil-refineries which belong to the
Bakhtiari chiefs, who derived very small profits
from their elementary methods of refining a little
oil. They are to-day much better off, large
numbers of their people have regular employment,
and the Persian Government itself has been saved
from bankruptcy largely by the development of
these oil-fields. On the outbreak of war the
Germans incited the Bakhtiari chiefs to seize the
oil-wells. They argued that the chiefs would be
better off if the oil-wells entirely belonged to them,
and they, of course, offered to lend their assistance
in scientifically working the wells ; but the wiser
men pointed out to the Germans that they had no
ships on the seas, and without a fleet the oil could
not be sold. In a recent report of the Anglo-
Persian Oil Company the chairman gave some re-
markable figures, and stated that, although a com-
paratively small area of the fields embraced in the
Company's concessions had thus far been developed,
yet the output from seven wells is already larger
than the pre-war production of the whole of the
Roumanian andGalician oil-fields, where 40,000,000
sterling has been sunk and more than 2000 wells
opened. It was said, moreover, that the quality
of the Persian oil is better than the Roumanian
and Galician oil. The crude product is rich in
benzine and kerosene ; it yields good lubricating
oil, fuel oil of high thermal efficiency, and first-rate
paraffin wax. The wells are now yielding 5,000,000
tons a year, and the extraordinary rate of output is
TRANSFORMATION OF MESOPOTAMIA 249
likely to be well maintained ; almost the whole pipe
line has been twice relaid with pipes of larger capa-
city, so there is now a 10-inch pipe line of over 150
miles long. The Company has allocated 5,000,000
for the construction of a refinery near Swansea in
South Wales ; it has acquired the shale oil-fields in
Scotland ; it owns quite a good fleet of oil-ships, and
it has increased its capital funds to 20,000,000.
It is believed there are still more valuable oil-fields
in other parts of Mesopotamia, and it is probable
that the oil-fields north of Baghdad will prove to
be some of the most valuable deposits in the world.
I once came down the Tigris from Mosul upon a
raft of inflated sheepskins, when we passed by a
rock in the middle of the river, not far from Gyara,
out of which there flowed a copious stream of oil
that polluted the river for many miles below.
An aerial survey of the Syrian desert has been made
with a view to ascertaining the best route for an
oil pipe line from Mesopotamia to the Mediterra-
Baghdad, that in pre-war days was a dirty,
disorderly city, decimated and impoverished when
the British entered it, has now become a bustling
hi]|e of activity. The dark, narrow streets that
were so badly illuminated by feeble little oil-lamps
are now well lighted by electricity, and the main
thoroughfare which runs through the town has
become a well-metalled motor road. There is an
excellent police force guarding the city and regulat-
ing the traffic, and to the astonishment of the Arabs
250 MARVELLOUS MESOPOTAMIA
there is an efficient fire brigade, a thing unheard of
under the Turkish administration. The picturesque
water-carriers have, almost disappeared. It was
nothing uncommon to see these men by the riverside
scooping up drinking-water with a leather scoop
and pouring it into the sheepskins, while at the
same time a little higher upstream there would be
women washing dirty clothes or men having a
bathe ; but the Baghdad water supply has now been
vastly improved, and regular waterworks convey
ythe well-filtered element through pipes, as in the
West, to the dwellings of the inhabitants. The
Baghdad mosques have been repaired, all the roads
have been properly relaid and metalled, many
elementary schools have been opened, also a
technical school and a training school for teachers.
Another much -needed innovation gives untold
pleasure to pedestrians : water-carts to lay the blind-
ing and choking dust of the summer months were
things unknown to the civilised Turk. The ever-
active sanitary squads have cleansed the city of
its noisome smells, though a selection of savoury
odours remains in its labyrinth of bazaars. It is
no longer possible to meet a variety of sick, wounded,
and starving animals, covered with sores, for they
can now be received into a home where they are
properly tended, and only when well are they
iv handed back to their owners.
The Basra Times is a flourishing newspaper
published in Arabic, Persian, and English, while in
Baghdad there is a Government Press that gives
TRANSFORMATION OF MESOPOTAMIA 251
publicity to everything that might prove interesting
and helpful to the people. It openly publishes
the amount of revenue that has been raised, the
sources from which it has been obtained, with
details as to how the money is being spent. It
reports upon the progress of irrigation schemes and
improvements in agriculture ; it gives advice on
a variety of mercantile subjects, details of schools
available for the children and the many municipal
hospitals that have been opened for the sick.
The most striking achievements of the Civil
Commissioner and his staff are the most difficult to
describe. They have largely succeeded in bringing
about the moral reformation of a people that was
despised by the Turks and treated as swine by the
Germans. Tribal warfare has given place to satis-
factory methods of arbitration, and one day's
conference with the disputants suffices to settle
a boundary quarrel which in olden times required
a year's fighting, frequent raids and punitive ex-
peditions. The Arab chiefs are loyally co-operating
with the new administrators, for there is plenty
of water to be had for their fertile land, plenty of
markets available for their produce, and cheap
transport by rail, river, or road, numbers of hospitals
for their sick, schools for their children, and impartial
justice for all. The most desolate country in the
world is being rapidly transformed into something
like a paradise once again.
Abadan, 96, 240, 247.
Abd'l Hamid, 31, 143, 209.
Abu Habba, 142.
Abu Musa, island of, 78.
Abu Shahrain, 148.
Abu Sofyan, 162.
Abu Suleib, 89.
Acre, 31, 68.
Affej marshes, 146.
Afghanistan, 35, 122, 200, 207.
Aga Khan, 207.
Ain Sofar, 67.
Ain Sufni, 136.
Aker Koof, 140.
Aleppo, 41, 46, 61, 65, 69, 195.
Alexander the Great, 44, 45, 70,
138, 139, 144, M5.
Alfred the Great, 189.
Ali, the Khalif, 162.
Alton Kupri, 138.
Amanus Mountains, 58.
Amara, 63, 154, 241.
America, 121, 150.
Ana, quarries of, 742.
Ana's Tomb, Shaiba, 100.
Anglo-Persian Oil Company, 28,
Angora, 54, 56, 61.
Arabia, 201, 203, 204.
Armenia, 17, 33, 168, 174, 202,
Asia Minor, 41, 69, 166, 189.
Asshur, 44, 137.
Asshurbanipal, 44, 133, 134, 151
Assyria, 43, 131, 137, 168, 227.
Babel Street, 142.
Babi sect, 31, 152.
Babil Mound, 143, 145.
Babylon, 30, 41, 44, 63, 131, 132,
136, 143, 245.
Baghche tunnel, 59, 127.
Baghdad, 17, 18, 21, 23, 30, 32,
36, 54, 63, 119, 124, 131,
144, 158, 173, 174, 194, 203,
206, 208, 218, 224, 226, 241.
Bahrain, 78, 79, 83, 97.
Bakhtiari chiefs, 204, 248.
Bakuba, 63, 246.
Balkan Provinces, 33, 35.
Banians, Indian, 77, 81.
Bank, Deutsche, 36, 54.
Barrett, General, 124.
Basra, 17, 21, 29, 63, 158, 195,
224, 225, 226, 239, 249.
Bavian monuments, 136.
Beazeley, Col., R.E., 139.
Bedouin, 89, 131.
Bedry Bey, 143.
Bektash Dervishes, 159.
" Bellums," 238.
Berlin- Baghdad Railway, 22, 33,
Bikanir, Maharajah of, 214.
Bird life, 228.
Birs Nimrood, 145.
Botta, 135, 149, 150.
Boundary Commissioners, 165.
Brest-Litovsk Treaty, 38.
Brigandage, 21, 65.
British and Foreign Bible Society,
Bruce, Dr, 195.
Bunder Abbas, 74.
Byzantine Empire, 203.
Cairo, 37, 123, 131, 203, 212.
Calcutta, 174, 202.
Caspian Sea, 40.
Caucasus, 61, 157, 171, 202.
Chaldeans, Christian, 21, 169,
Chaldean stories, 133.
Chamberlain, Mr, 202.
Chelebi Effendi, 58.
" Cherad," no.
Chesney, General, 149.
China, 45, 190, 191.
" Chole " (desert), 227.
Chosroes II, arch of, in, 140,
Church Missionary Society, 31,
194. I 95-
Cilician Gates, 42.
Commissioner, Civil, 251.
Commission, Empire Resources
German Railway, 91.
Mesopotamian, 17, 126.
Congleton, Lord, 194.
Congress, Central Europe, 39.
Cbnstantine the Great, 178.
Constantinople, 1, 33, 150, 202,
203, 208, 210, 223.
Cotton, 19, 20, 60.
Cowley, Commander C, V.C.,
Cox, Sir Percy, 124.
Crewe, Earl of, 200, 203.
Cronin, Mrs, 195.
Crusaders, 90, 203.
Ctesiphon, 44, 98, 126, 140, 160,
Damascus, 36, 67, 205, 210.
Dancing Dervishes, 57.
Danube, 38, 48.
Date gardens, 238.
groves, 21, 228.
Decauville lines, 60, 68.
Dehi, 179, 184.
Dehok, 179, 182.
Delamain, General, 83, 87.
Deraa, 67, 68.
De Sarzec, 149.
Devil-worshippers (see Yezidees),
Diala, 139, 243, 246.
Diarbekir, 42, 54, 61.
Driver, Dr, 229.
Druzes, 37, 154.
Dungi, King, 147.
Ea, father of Merodach, 148.
Eastern Telegraph Company, 74.
East India Company, 73, 149.
Edessa, 44, 189.
Egypt, 19, 34, 61, 68, 198, 202,
El-Kasr (Babylon), 144.
Enver Pasha, 126.
Erebil, 138, 177.
Erzeroom, 61, 122, 165.
Eski-Shehr, 54, 56.
Euphrates, 61, 63, 70, 107, 162.
Ezekiel's Tomb, 153.
Ezra's Tomb, 153.
Feisal, Emir, 98.
Felujah, 63, 140.
Firman Firma, 32.
Force D, 120.
Free Church of Scotland, 195.
French, Bishop, 73.
Galician oil, 248.
Garden of Eden, 148, 153, 154,
Gaza, 41, 68.
Germany's Turkish policy, 34.
Ghussab's Fort, 113.
Gobi plateau, 40.
Groves, Anthony N., 194.
Haifa, 38, 67, 68.
Hall, Mr, 148.
Company, 81, 97.
" Hanging Gardens," 144.
Hardinge, Lord, 202.
Haroun '1 Raschid, 44, 140, 189,
son of, 139.
Hauran Mountains, 38.
Hedjaz Railway, 37, 67.
Hewett, Sir John, 246.
Hillah, 63, 145, 165.
Hilprecht, Professor, 146.
" Hindiah " flood, 245.
Hit, 19, 44, 142.
Hittite Empire, 42, 132.
Holy War, 197, 201, 205, 211,
214. (See Jehad.)
Hotzch, Herr Otto, 34.
Hyderabad, Nizam of, 207.
Ibn Hebraeus, 176.
Ibn Raschid, 85, 206, 207.
Ibn Saood, Sheikh, 91, 92, 206,
Imams, 158, 160.
India, 19, 35, 44, 69, 172, 189,
190, 198, 201, 206, 209, 212.
Indian Marine, Royal, 77.
Inland waterways, 38, 40.
Irak, 19, 25, 237.
Iranian plateau, 43.
Irrigation, 19, 26, 29, no, 139,
Is (Ihi-da-Kira), 142.
Isa Canal, 141.
Ishtar, goddess, 132, 136, 144.
Islam, 23, 24, 152, 158, 191, 200,
Islam, Sheik '1, 198.
Ismid, 52, 53.
Jabr, Sheikh, 91.
Jackson, Sir John, 231, 245.
Jacobites or Western Syrians,
Jebel Maklub, 176.
Jebel Sinjar, 136.
Jedda, 67, 205.
" Jehad," 198, 200, 203, 210,
214. (See Holy War.)
Jehaila Canal, 242.
Jerablus, 61, 132.
Jerusalem, 32, 67, 68, 132, 188.
Johnson, Dr, 195.
Joshua the High Priest, 153.
" Julnar," 117, 118.
Jupiter, moons of, 141.
Karun river, 247.
Kasmain, 21, 64, 160.
Kasr-i-Shirin, 63, 193.
Kerbela, 21, 27, 31, 164, 207, 208,
Kerman, 74, 75.
Kermanshah, 43, 64.
Khabur river, 133, 227.
Khalifs, 18, 139, 158.
Khalis Canal, 246.
King, Dr, 149.
Kitchener, Lord, 37.
Kitto, John, 194, 195.
Koldewey, Dr, 149.
Konia, 54, 57.
Koran, 158, 159, 166, 199.
Koreish tribe, 162.
Koweit, 88, 206, 244.
Kufa, 158, 162, 163, 221.
Kurdistan, 23, 168, 171, 230.
Kurds, 21, 26, 65, 123, 131, 169,
Kuretu, 63, 64.
Kurigalzu, King, 141.
Kurna, 63, 94, 151, 216.
Kuyunjik, 133, 134, 151, 175.
Labour leaders, 27.
Lake, General, 234.
Layard, Sir Henry, 134, 135, 149.
Lebanon Railway, 66, 67.
Levant Company, 46, 74.
Lewin, Mr Evans, 43.
Lichnowsky, Prince, 35.
Liquorice, 21, 228.
Lloyd George, Mr, 120.
London, 50, 69, 135.
Ludd, 66, 67, 68.
Maaruf '1 Kerkhi, Sheikh, 140,
MacMunn Bridge, 242.
Mamoun, Khalif, 159.
Mandaitic language, 154.
Manytch Depression, 40.
Marco Polo, 74.
Mardin, 61, 169.
Marduk's Temple (Babylon), 144.
Mar Ebrahom, 177.
Marseilles, 48, 212.
Marshall, Captain, 26.
Mar Shimoon, 169.
" Mathhab " (sect), 153.
Matti, Sheikh, 176.
Maude, General, no, 241.
Mecca, 23, 43, 159, 162,200,204.
Median Wall, 146.
Medina, 67, 158, 162.
Meshed Ah, 163. (See Nejif.)
Midhat Pasha, 224.
Mohammed, 156, 158, 162.
Moharrem, 164, 207.
Morgenthau, Ambassador, 197,
Morocco, 159, 198.
Moslems, 23, 158, 166, 191, 198,
Mosquitoes, 217, 219.
Mosul, 19, 61, 63, 132, 172, 182.
Mount Carmel, 68.
Muadham, 158, 159.
Muawiyeh, 162, 163.
Mubarek, Sheikh, 91, 92.
Mujtahid, 158, 207, 209.
Muscat, 71, 72, 207.
Nahrwan Canal, 138, 139.
Naram-Sin, 142, 151.
" Narrows, The," 243, 244.
Nasiriyeh, 63, 147.
Navy, Royal, 46, 71, 76, 93.
" Nazeez," 233.
Near East, 34, 50.
Neatby, Dr, 194.
Nebo (god), 145.
Nebuchadnezzar, 44, 145.
Neby Yunis, 133, 134, 175.
Nejif, 26, 27, 163, 206, 207, 221.
Nestorians, 168, 188, 190.
Newman, Francis W., 194, 195.
Niffer, 139, 146, 150, 151, 220,
Nimrood (Calah), 134, 135.
Nineveh, 44, 131, 133, 136, 170.
Nisibin, 61, 132, 133, 175.
Nixon, Sir John, 124.
Nizamut Jung, Nawab, 212.
Noah, 57, 229.
Ocean, H.M.S., 84.
Oelwein, Professor, 39.
Oil, 96, 120, 227, 248.
O'Malley, Sir E., 208.
Oman, Gulf of, 74.
Omar Bey El Farouky, 205.
Orient Express, 51, 132.
Osman, Khalif, 162.
Ottoman Empire, 24, 50.
Oudh, King of, 209.
Paris Conference, 23, 24.
Parnell (Lord Congleton), 194,
Parsees of Bombay, 192.
"Pearl Islands," 80, 81.
Pekin, 45, 50, 189.
Pennsylvania, University of , 146.
Persia, 23, 122, 131, 171, 173,
Shah of, 202, 210.
Petrograd, 28, 50, 211.
Petroleum, 96, 121. (See Oil.)
Pilgrims, 21, 65, 85, 131, 160,
Pirates, 76, 93.
Plymouth Brethren, 194.
Poems : ' ' India to England ,"213.
"The Roadmakers," 127.
Population, census, 16.
Porter, Robert Ker, 149.
Prester John, 189.
Queen Elizabeth, 46, 73.
" Rabia " (verdure), 227.
Ras '1 Ain, 61, 132, 133.
Rassam, Hormuzd, 136, 142, 149.
Rawlinson, Sir Henry, 149, 170.
Red Cross, 212.
Red Sea, 67.
Reformation, the, 192.
Reuss, Prince, 122.
Rich, Claudius J., [149.
Roman Emperors, 188.
Church of, 169.
Rowanduz, 170, 174.
" Royal Road," 42.
Rumanian oil, 121, 248.
Russia, 38, 54, 75, 123, 198, 202.
Russian oil, 121.
Sabeans, 131, 152, 154, 155.
Saeki, Professor, 190.
St Thomas, 188, 190.
" Christians of," 189.
Salman Pak, 160.
Salzmann, Captain von, 34.
Samarra, 62, 63, 139, 160.
Sami Pasha, 37.
Sargon I., 142, 146.
Sargon II., 133, 135.
Scutari, 52, 54.
Selim the Grim, 133.
Sennacherib, 44, 134, 136.
Senna-i-yat, 119, 234.
Serbia, 34, 198.
Sergius, saint and martyr, 193.
Shabakahs, 154, 178.
Shaiba, 98, 238.
Shakespear, Captain, 207.
Shalmaneser II., 135, 136.
Shammar tribe, 206.
Shat '1 Arab, 97.
Shat '1 Hai, 107. 147.
Shat '1 Nil, 139, 145.
Shereef of Mecca, 205.
Shereefian Boundary, 142.
Shiah sects, 27, 162, 207, 210.
Passion Play, 164.
Shinar, land of, 19, 146.
Shirin (or Sira), 193.
'* Silk Street," 45, 46.
Sinaitic Desert, 68.
Sinjar Mountains, 176.
Sivas, 42, 54, 61.
Smith, George, 133, 149, 229.
Smuts, General, 199.
Soudan, 202, 227.
Star- worship, 152, 154.
Stein, Sir Aurel, 45.
Stern, Rev. A., 195.
Donkey's shrine, 160.
Pilgrims and steamer, 85.
Shah and Bakhtiari chief, 204.
Sheffield soldier and Garden
of Eden, 217.
Sultan and conjurer, 209.
Turk and goat, 113.
Sublime Porte, 126.
Suez Canal, 34, 47, 68, 123, 212.
Sumerian age, 149.
Sunnis, 158, 207.
Sykes, Sir Percy, 75.
Syria, 65, 70, 198, 205.
Syrian desert, 249.
Taurus, 58, 59.
Taylor, Mr W 148.
Tel-Amran, 144, 145.
Tello, 147, 149.
Tharthar, river, 136.
The Near East, 29, 127.
Thompson, Captain, 148.
Tigris, 19, 107, 151, 195, 222,
Tikrit, 63, 139.
Tower of Babel, 140, 145.
Townshend, General, 109, 112,
119, 122, 124.
Trajan, 44, 137.
Turkey, 27, 201, 211.
Turkish Empire, 23, 24, 33, 35.
Turks, 164, 207, 225.
Uniat communities, 196.
Upper Halys, 42.
Upper Zab, 177.
Ur, 147, 148.
Vasco da Gama, 47, 189.
Vienna, 33, 203.
Wangenheim (German Ambas-
Wheat, 19, 57, 238.
Wilson, President, 35.
Wolff, Joseph, 195.
Wonckhaus, 81, 84.
Wool, 21, 56.
Xenophon, 139, 170.
Yezidees, 131,152, 154, 156. (Sez
Young Turks, 31.
Zab, Lower, 138.
Zagros, Gates of, 43.
Zanzibar, Sultan of, 207.
Zaptiah, 184, 221, 236.
Zenobia's ruins, 142.
Zeppelins, 40, 211.
Zodiac, signs of, 141.
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UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LIBRARY